George Strait has been the reigning king of country since the 1980s, and he looks in no danger of relinquishing his title anytime soon. A pioneer of the neotraditionalist country movement, he’s credited with steering the genre away from its 80s flirtation with pop and taking it back to its country roots. He’s won more CMA and ACM awards than any other artist, been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, won armies of fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and kept both his record label and his bank manager very, very happy for over 4 decades. If you’re in the mood for some of the finest country music around, check out these 10 best George Strait songs of all time.
10. I Just Want To Dance With You
When a pair of legendary singer-songwriters like John Prine and Roger Cook team up, you know the results are going to be good. I Just Want To Dance With You is more than good, it’s epic. It gave Daniel O’Donnell a hit in 1992 and, six years later, it gave Strait an even bigger one. Released as the first single to his album One Step at a Time, it peaked at No. 1 on the US Hot Country Songs and No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100. Blessed with some exquisitely tender guitar work and an almost tropical beat, it’s as light and refreshing as a summer breeze.
9. Love Without End, Amen
As Billboard notes, Love Without End, Amen spent five weeks at No.1, and not without reason. Released (somewhat conveniently) to coincide with Fathers Day, the song talks about a father’s unconditional love for his kids. There are a few religious undertones too, which probably did it no harm at all with a good portion of Strait’s core audience.
8. Carrying Your Love With Me
As Whiskey Riff says, George Strait doesn’t make many music videos. So when he does, as he does on this next song, we know someone at the record label feels they’ve got a hit on their hands and have had a few choice words in his ear. The video for Carrying Your Love With Me is perfectly decent, but as usual, it’s the music that does the talking. A staggeringly romantic song about the deep, sustaining passion a man can have for a woman, it took Strait straight to the top of the charts on its release in 1997.
In 1992, Strait made his silver screen debut in the dramatic musical Western, “Pure Country.” The film didn’t do that well in the theaters, but its soundtrack did incredibly well in the charts, becoming one of Strait’s best-selling albums of all time. Heartland, which features as the opening track on the movie, is an uptempo number on a huge scale. Everything about it is big…. the production is big, the arrangements are big, and George’s vocals are positively mammoth. The only thing that isn’t off the charts huge is Strait’s son Bubba, who proved the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree with some sweet little harmonies. After debuting at No.73 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks, it eventually reached No. 1 in March 1993.
6. I Hate Everything
By 2004, Strait was well into middle age and clearly feeling it. He wasn’t in the mood to sing about love and his joints were probably given him too much jip to want to dance. He did, however, want to give the younger generation a little bit of advice. I Hate Everything is, far from the rage-fueled rant its title suggests, a life lesson about the value of burying the hatchet and choosing forgiveness over bitterness. A crossover hit, it peaked at No. 1 in the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100.
5. I Cross My Heart
When Strait gets sentimental, he pulls out all the stops. The centerpiece of the Pure Country soundtrack is the love ballad to end all love ballads, I Cross My Heart. With lyrics that mix devotion with bravado and some heat flutteringly gorgeous vocals, it gave Strait yet another No. 1 to add to his collection when it was released in 1992.
4. All My Ex’s Live In Texas
By the time All My Ex’s Live In Texas was released in 1987, Strait had long since graduated from an up-and-coming pretender to the throne to the resident King of Country. He produced hits, made albums people bought by the boatload, and was almost incapable of putting a foot wrong. All My Ex’s Live In Texas didn’t rock the boat. Underscored by Strait’s signature humor, this wry tale of a man forced to flee Texas for Tennessee after a series of disastrous relationships is told with a nudge, a wink, and some straight-up stellar vocals makes for a classic country song.
As Rolling Stone writes, the narrator of Run doesn’t care whether it’s a plane, a cab, or a pair of sneakers that gets his lady to his side, he just wants her to hurry up already. Written by Tony Lane and Anthony Smith, the song showcases Strait’s vulnerable side, with the raw, emotionally charged lyrics setting the foundation for one of his most potent vocal performances. Released as the first single from 2001’s The Road Less Traveled, it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
2. Amarillo by Morning
Amarillo by Morning gave Terry Stafford a minor hit in 1973. Ten years later, it gave Strait a major hit when he revisited this ode to the lonely cowboy on his second studio album, Strait From the Heart. Strait’s is unquestionably the definitive version, with a wistfulness and a stoicism that elevate the lyrics to the next level. Buddy Spicher’s lonesome fiddle is a revelation, but its Strait’s yearning, plaintive vocals that steal the show.
1. The Chair
Written by Strait’s long-time collaborator Dean Dillon, The Chair has charm and wit and one of the best pick-up lines in the history of dating. The narrator might be bashful, but Strait isn’t – he knows exactly what he’s capable of and he pulls it off effortlessly. The song reached No. 1 on the country music chart and has since gone on to be named one of the top 100 country songs of all time by CMT.