After fifty years as a singer and songwriter, it’s hard to miss Bobby Bare’s encyclopedic song collection, even in the flooded field of music you can get online in an instant today. All country music fans know his work. Though it comes as no surprise, this multi-award-winning musician has held a well-deserved spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame since his induction in 2013. With almost five-dozen top forty hits, choosing Bare’s top ten best songs of all time was a truly massive undertaking but well worth the effort.
10. Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends
A good, sad country song is a staple, just like a love song. This one is all about a fling that has the potential to be more. The implication is mournful, and it’s not likely to go anywhere, but the singer wants to believe that it could be more. Not knowing the ending is more wishful thinking in this case than anything since it’s clear he knows how things are going to end. Nevertheless, this sweetly poignant tune is all about what might happen if you don’t spoil the magic, or at least it’s about feeling good for a while longer when you’d usually wreck the moment by worrying over the future.
9. Margie’s At The Lincoln Park Inn
Cheating and musicians are a tale as old as lyrics. Margie’s At The Lincoln Park Inn is about the guilt associated with being a cheating husband. In the song, the man talks to his preacher and spends time at home with his family. He plans to do the best he can and go to church, but he’s still going to cheat on his wife and potentially ruin his family. Sometimes, for some people, all the love and family in the world doesn’t satisfy them, even when they know it should, and they have responsibilities.
8. Dear John Letter (Featuring Skeeter Davis)
The Dear John letter has gone out of fashion in this internet-obsessed era. Before emails and probably even before phones leaving a message to “Dear John” or whatever his name happened to be was the rude breakup message. Rather than having the maturity to say it in person, you could just leave a note. Today this would be called a Dear John Text, but by any definition, it’s an outstanding song, and Skeeter Davis’ voice was an excellent accompaniment for Bobby Bare.
7. 500 Miles Away From Home
Parents want their children to be happy, but they grow up and move away. However, this song isn’t about a parent missing their child. It’s about losing everything and trying to get back to a place where you are loved and accepted unconditionally. The girl in the song is trying to hitchhike home with nothing but the clothes on her back. She is tired and hungry and clearly had a string of mishaps and bad luck. The road ahead still seems so long, but in the end, she’ll get there.
6. Daddy What If
Not only is the video for this song utterly precious beyond words, but it features Bare as a father. It is not a metaphor. His son Bobby Bare Jr. was five years old in the scenes from this video. The real-life glimpse of his family would have been worthy of an honorable mention even if the song wasn’t so great.
5. Detroit City
Detroit City is one of the songs for which Bobby Bare is best known. Written by Danny Dill and Mel Tillis, this song resonates with anyone who ever moved far from a rural home. It is particularly poignant if your family puts you on a pedestal or if you’re prone to embellishing the truth to impress folks back home. It’s a common experience to get a bit homesick, especially when you’re in a very different environment and Detroit City speaks to anyone who’s ever felt that way themselves.
4. That’s How I Got To Memphis
Unlike All American Boy, which was wrongly credited to another artist, That’s How I Got To Memphis is one of a few covers done by Bobby Bare. Originally the song came from Tom T. Hall’s 1969 album Ballad of Forty Dollars & His Other Great Songs. However, the Bare version is one of many covers, and an excellent one to boot. While it never quite topped the charts, Bare’s rendition of That’s How I Got To Memphis spent sixteen weeks on the Hot Country Songs Chart and got as high as number three.
3. Dropkick Me Jesus
Dropkick Me Jesus is one of those incredibly ridiculous country songs that could make the top five on any humorous country song list. Better still, this song was nominated for a Grammy in 1977, though it did not win. Hilarious, bizarre, and oddly inspirational, there’s no way we weren’t including it on Bare’s top ten best songs of all time.
2. All American Boy
This hotly contended song was indeed written and recorded by Bobby Bare. Since he was unknown at the time, and shortly thereafter went into the military, Fraternity Records credited it to Bill Parsons. Amusingly, this song was a number one hit, but not the version recorded by Bare. While he was in the army, Parsons made the song famous and initially got full credit for it as well. Of course, the truth came out in the end and Bare went on to have a half-century spanning career.
1. Marie Laveau
According to KXRB, Bobby Bare only had one number one hit in his long and esteemed career, and it was Marie Laveau. However, that’s not even the craziest thing about this song. The writer of Marie Laveau was none other than beloved children’s author Shel Silverstein. For those two reasons we are giving this song the number one spot on our list.
Long before Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson pulled the ‘outlaw coup’ Bare was fighting for the rights to his own work. Few artists have had such an impact on the music industry over such a long career. Bare uses his fame and influence for more than just his own gains. In fact, he had a TV show Bobby Bare and Friends from 1983 to 1988 where he showcased poets, artists, and especially musicians, presenting them to the world in an easygoing and intimate way that gave the audience a sense of inclusion and accessibility.