5 Impactful Country Hits Turning 50 in 2021

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The biggest country hits of 1971 furthered the careers of three gifted storytellers and songwriters (Tom T. Hall, Dolly Parton and Jerry Reed), slingshotted minor star Freddie Hart to the top of the Nashville heap and provided one of the greatest vocalists to emerge from any form of popular music, Charley Pride, with a signature song that's still a crucial listen.

Read on for our playlist of impactful country hits turning 50 in 2021.

"The Year That Clayton Delaney Died," Tom T. Hall

Tom T. Hall rode his hot streak as a songwriter (he wrote Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 hit "Harper Valley PTA") and storyteller (his first No. 1 was 1969's "A Week in the Country Jail") into the '70s with this, his second chart-topper.

Although many assume that Clayton Delaney was an old man, he's actually based on a youngster from Hall's childhood. Both Clayton and Delaney were street names used in place of the real name of Hall's childhood aquaqintance, Lonnie Easterly.

Per the Facebook account Classic Country Music Stories, Easterly was Hall's neighbor and childhood hero. Easterly was already a skilled teenage musician around the time pre-teen Hall received his first guitar. The older boy's guitar picking style and independent streak left a mark on Hall, as did his teenage idol's untimely passing by age 20.

"Easy Loving," Freddie Hart

"Easy Loving" transformed Freddie Hart from a singer with nothing but minor hits since the '50s to a megastar with six No. 1s in two years. Indeed, Hart went from getting dropped by Capitol Records to making history with "Easy Loving," the only two-time Song of the Year (1971 and '72) in CMA history.

Hart introduced more mature themes to the country charts by leaving in the line "so sexy lookin'." It was the first No. 1 country hit with "sexy" in its lyrics and perhaps the genre's second single to include the term, after George Hamilton IV's "Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston" pushed the envelope in 1964.

"Coat of Many Colors," Dolly Parton

Not that her songwriting talent's limited to two topics, but there's something special when Dolly Parton turns tales of faith and family into instantly familiar tunes. That's especially true when revisiting her songs from this time period.

Parton's musical memories of hand-me-down clothes incorporate the Biblical story of Joseph's Coat of Many Colors.

She wrote the song in 1969 while traveling with Porter Wagoner on a tour bus. According to her 1994 memoir My Life and Other Unfinished Business, Parton couldn't find a piece of paper, so she wrote the song's lyrics on the back of a dry cleaning receipt for one of Wagoner's suits. Once the song became a hit, Wagoner framed the receipt.

"Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'," Charley Pride

When it comes to critical acclaim, the golden years of Charley Pride's mainstream career span from 1971 to '72. Beginning with the release of Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs and its lead single "Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'," he started dominating awards shows. At the 1971 CMA Awards, he took home Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. The album later won the singer's third Grammy in a two-year span -- the others came for gospel album Did You Think to Pray and its single "Let Me Live."

Pride left no doubt that he was the right singer to implore the married folks in his audience to "kiss an angel good mornin'" and "love her like the devil when you get back home." It became one of the biggest hits for both its singer and writer Ben Peters, the mind behind Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and Kenny Rogers' "Daytime Friends." Beyond topping the American country charts for five weeks, it was Pride's only Top 25 appearance on the pop charts.

Read More: Country Rewind: Hank Williams Jr.'s Namedrop-Filled 'All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down'

"When You're Hot, You're Hot," Jerry Reed

The star of country music's joke-cracking, guitar-strumming genius shone brighter after fans heard this tale of an eventful craps game with Homer Jones and Big John Talley.

As the '70s rolled along, Reed kept on excelling creatively, culminating in 1977 with Dick Feller co-write and Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack cut "East Bound and Down."

A Chet Atkins-produced album of the same title also turns 50 this year. It brought us another classic from 1971, "Amos Moses," plus a cover of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town."


"When You're Hot, You're Hot" Lyrics

Well, now me and Homer Jones and Big John Talley
Had a big crap game goin' back in the alley
And I kept rollin' them sevens, winnin' all them pots

My luck was so good, I could do no wrong
I just kept on rollin' and controllin' them bones
And finally they just threw up their hands and said
"When you hot, you hot", I said, "Yeah"

When you're hot, you're hot
And when you're not, you're not
Put all the money in an' let's roll 'em again
When you're hot, you're hot
La la la la la la, la la la la la
La la la la la la, when you're hot, you're hot

Well, now every time I rolled 'em dice I'd win
And I was just gettin' ready to roll 'em again
When I heard somethin' behind me
I turned around and there was a big ole cop

He said "Hello, boys", and then he gave us a grin an' said
"Look like I'm gonna hafta haul you all in
An' keep all that money for evidence"
I said, "Well, son when you hot, you hot", he said, "Yeah"

When you're hot, you're hot
And when you're not, you're not
You can 'splain it all down at City Hall
I say, yeah, when you're hot, you're hot
La la la la la la, la la la la la
La la la la la la, when you're hot, you're hot

Well, when he took us in to court, I couldn't believe my eyes
The judge was a fishin' buddy that I recognized
I said, "Hey, judge, old buddy, old pal
I'll pay ya that hundred I owe ya, if you'll get me outta this spot"

So he gave my friends a little fine to pay
He turned around an' grinned at me an' said
"Ninety days, sweet thang, when you hot, you hot"
An' I said, "Thanks a lot"

When you're hot, you're hot
And when you're not, you're not
He let my friends go free and throwed the book at me
He said, "Well, when you're hot, you're hot"

I said, "Well, I'll tell ya one thing judge, old buddy, old pal
If you wasn't wearin' that black robe
I'd take out in back of this courthouse
And I'd try a little bit of your honor on...

"You understand that, you hillbilly?
Who gonna collect my welfare?
Pay for my Cadillac?
Whadda you mean 'Contempt of Court'?
Judge, oh, judge, judgie poo"

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5 Impactful Country Hits Turning 50 in 2021