For two decades, Ronnie Milsap was the biggest thing in country music. The hits might not be coming as thick and fast as they did in the 70s and the 80s, but he’s still performing, still pulling in the crowds, and still enjoying the status of country’s most successful crossover artist. Over the years, he’s drawn on elements of pop, rock, and R&B to create a songbook that’s bursting with gems. Whittling down the top picks when you’re dealing with someone with 35 No.1 country hits and six Grammy Awards isn’t easy, but in our opinion, these are the 10 best Ronnie Milsap songs of all time.
10. Make No Mistake, She’s Mine
In 1987, Milsap teamed up with country legend Kenny Rogers for a tour of the country. After seeing how well their version of Barbara Streisand and Kim Carnes’ “Make No Mistake, He’s Mine” went down with a live audience, they decided to commit it to tape. Their efforts bagged them a No.1 hit and a Grammy for Best Country Duet.
9. (I’d Be) A Legend in My Time
In 1960, Don Gibson had a minor hit with the self-penned “(I’d Be) A Legend in My Time.” Fourteen years later, the song gave Milsap a major hit when he covered it on the 1974 album of the same name. A plaintive ballad sung from the perspective of a lovelorn man who’d be a legend “If heartaches brought fame in love’s crazy game,” the song features a crooning vocal, sweeping choral arrangements, and some heartbreakingly sweet backing vocals from The Nashville Edition. According to Wikipedia, Milsap’s version altered the song from its original 3/4 time signature to a 4/4 time signature… which may just explain why Milsap’s cover managed what Gibson’s hadn’t and landed a No.1 position on the country chart.
8. Prisoner of the Highway
Featuring one of Milsap’s greatest vocal performances – not to mention finest keyboard playing – “Prisoner of the Highway” sounds, as k923.fm puts it, like an authentic outlaw country song that’s been updated for the ’80s. Told from the perspective of a long-haul trucker with a love-hate relationship with the road, it’s an infectious piece of country that’s since gone on to provide hits for both Mark Wills and Aaron Tippin.
7. Stranger in My House
Taken from the 1983 album “Keyed Up,” “Stranger in My House” is a surprisingly complex country-rock song with a gritty lyric about a man who suspects his wife is fantasizing about a secret lover, a stabbing guitar riff from Bruce Dees, and a risqué black and white promo video. One radio station went so far as to ban the track for, in their opinion, sounding too like Led Zeppelin. It didn’t, but it did come as close to hard rock as Milsap ever got. Although it failed to deliver a No.1, it did earn its songwriter, Mike Reid, a Grammy for Best Country Award the following year.
6. It Was Almost Like a Song
By the time “It Was Almost Like a Song” was released in 1977, Milsap was already a force to be reckoned with. Despite the fact he’d only been signed for 5 years, he’d already scored seven No.1 singles in a row and bagged two Grammy awards. The piano ballad “It Was Almost Like a Song” continued his roll of success, topping the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and becoming his first major crossover success when it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No 16 and the Adult Contemporary Chart at No.7.
5. (I’m a) Stand By My Woman Man
As The Boot points out, if you suddenly start humming Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” when you hear “(I’m a) Stand By My Woman Man,” don’t be surprised. It was written as an answer to that very song, and while there’s a lot less pathos and a lot more humor here than there was there, it’s still a fine country tune, with some exuberant backing from The Holladay Sisters and a jaunty melody that’s nothing short of infectious.
4. Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In the Still of the Night)
“Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In the Still of the Night)” sounds exactly as the title suggests. This retro rock and roll number was almost purpose build for late-night 1950s radio, with a woozy lilt and a vintage sway that’s made all the more alluring by the artful sampling of the Five Satins’ “In the Still of the Night.” A crossover hit for Milsap, it spent two weeks at the top of the country chart and several weeks in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Later that year, it earned him a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance.
3. What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life
Taken from the 1977 album “It Was Almost Like a Song,” “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life” is a straight-up ballad with a stirring string arrangement, sumptuous piano work, and some gorgeously romantic lyrics (What a change you have made in my heart/You replaced all the broken parts / Oh, what a change you have made in my heart). There’s nothing complicated or challenging about the song, and therein lies its beauty: tender, simple, and as gentle as a summer breeze, it’s the very definition of easy listening.
2. Smoky Mountain Rain
“Smoky Mountain Rain” is a bittersweet tale of one man’s quest to find his lost love. A mid-tempo number that sandwiches soft rock with country-lite, it features a slick production, a singalong chorus, and, most appealingly of all, Milsap thumping away at the ivories in a fashion evocative of his work on Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain.” Included as one of the only new songs on his first ‘Greatest Hits’ collection, it took Milsap straight to No. 1 on both the country music and Adult Contemporary charts.
1. (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me
There can only be one winner, and in this case, the title goes to “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me.” Milsap flirted with pop on numerous occasions, but never did he do it so successfully than on this, his most enduring pop/country crossover track. Sung from the perspective of someone who’s been dumped but knows he’ll be “the dream that keeps you awake,” the song oozes radio-friendly appeal. Strangely enough, it almost didn’t get made at all – his album was already recorded and the first single was already pressed before he heard it. Certain it would be hit, he convinced the record label to add it to the record and release it as the leading single. They did, and sure enough, the song landed Milsap a Grammy and his highest ever chart position.