Ricky Van Shelton started singing gospel in church as a child. When he hits his teens, he discovered country music – after that, there was no stopping him. After honing his craft at every bar, coffee shop, and club he could get a gig at, he finally landed a record deal, dropping his debut album, Wild-Eyed Dream, in 1986. By the time he retired in 2006, he’d earned 10 number one hit singles, four platinum selling albums, and a slew of awards. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Ricky Van Shelton songs of all time.
10. From a Jack to a King
Kicking off our list of the 10 best Ricky Van Shelton songs of all time is From a Jack to a King. The song was first recorded by country singer Ned Miller. Miller initially released the song in 1957, but it went nowhere in the charts. Five years later, he convinced his record label to reissue it. This time around, it became a major crossover success, reaching number 2 on the U.S. country chart, number 6 on the pop chart, and number 3 on the adult contemporary chart. In December 1988, Shelton built on Millier’s success by taking it to number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart – his fifth consecutive time at the top.
9. Rockin’ Years
As countrythangdaily.com notes, Shelton has rubbed shoulders with plenty of big stars over the years. In 1991, he teamed up with one of the biggest of them all, Dolly Parton, for this sweet country waltz that finds the pair promising to love each other until their “rockin’ years” (in other words, until they’re both old and sitting in rocking chairs). Released in February 1991 as the lead single to both Parton’s album Eagle When She Flies and Shelton’s album Backroads, the song climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks, becoming Parton’s twenty-third number one and Shelton’s eighth.
8. I Am a Simple Man
Up next is I Am a Simple Man, a tale about a man whose girlfriend tries to start an argument with him by telling him he’s hard to understand. The man is too tired to fight, so responds by telling her he’s not hard to understand at all; providing he has “a job and a piece of land/three squares in my frying pan,” he’s happy. Released in April 1991 from Shelton’s album Backroads, it soared to number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks, giving Shelton his ninth number one.
7. Living Proof
Loving Proof, Shelton’s second album, was a major hit, reaching number 2 on the country charts and achieving crossover success on the pop charts, where it peaked at number 78. It spawned a series of number ten hits, including the chart-topping I’ll Leave This World Loving You and From a Jack to a King. Living Proof was another major success, taking Shelton to the top of the US Hot Country Singles chart on its release as the album’s fourth single in July 1989.
Backroads, Shelton’s fifth studio album, produced several number one singles, including Rockin’ Years, I Am a Simple Man, and Keep It Between the Lines. Its titular track, which was released in March 1992 as the fourth single from the album, didn’t manage to climb to the top spot, but it was still a giant success, reaching number 2 on the US country charts, number 3 on the Canadian country charts, and picking up the Canadian Country Music Association Awards’ Song of the Year for its songwriter, Charlie Major, the following year.
5. Life Turned Her That Way
Named one of the best Ricky Van Shelton songs of all time by wideopencountry.com, Life Turned Her That Way finds Shelton explaining how life’s trials and tribulations had made a woman turn cold. Written by Harlan Howard and first recorded by Little Jimmy Dickens in 1965, the song has been covered by numerous artists over the years, including Mel Tillis, Charley Pride, George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Conway Twitty. Shelton took his version to number one in early 1988.
4. Statue of a Fool
Statue of a Fool was written by country singer-songwriter, Jan Crutchfield. Jack Greene was the first to release it, taking it to No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 1969. Various artists have enjoyed success with it in the years since, including Brian Collins and Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers. Shelton’s version became a number 2 hit on the US Hot Country Songs and remained a firm favorite at live performances for the rest of his career.
3. Keep It Between the Lines
After several years as an almost permanent fixture at the top of the country charts, the early ’90s spelled the end of Shelton’s chart domination. His tenth and final number one was the Russell Smith and Kathy Louvin penned Keep It Between the Lines, which reached number one on its release as the second single from the album Backroads in July 1991.
2. Somebody Lied
Following swiftly on from Keep It Between the Lines, Shelton’s last number-one single, is Somebody Lied, a song which gave the singer his first experience of hitting the top spot in its release as the third single off his debut album, Wild-Eyed Dream, in July 1987. The song was written by Joe Chambers and Larry Jenkins and originally recorded by Conway Twitty for his 1985 album, Don’t Call Him a Cowboy.
1. I’ll Leave This World Loving You
I’ll Leave This World Loving You was written by Wayne Kemp and Mack Vickery and first recorded by Kemp, who reached number 47 on the US country charts with it in 1980. Sensing the song’s potential, Shelton worked his magic on it for his album, Loving Proof. Released as the album’s lead single in August 1988, it became the singer’s fourth consecutive country number one, staying at the top of the US Hot Country Songs chart for two weeks.