Story Behind the Song: Chris Stapleton, ‘Millionaire’
Chris Stapleton introduced modern country music fans to the song "Millionaire" when he recorded it for his 2017 album From A Room: Volume 2, but he was far from the first artist to cut the track. The song originally comes from California-born and Oklahoma-raised singer-songwriter Kevin Welch -- specifically, his 2002 album Millionaire.
Welch -- who earned a string of charting singles in the late 1980s and early '90s -- got his start as a songwriter in the late '70s. In the mid-1990s, he co-founded Dead Reckoning Records with, among others, Tammy Rogers and Mike Henderson -- two of Stapleton's former bandmates in the SteelDrivers.
After Welch released "Millionaire" in 2002, soul pioneer Solomon Burke recorded the song for his 2006 album Nashville. It would take another decade-plus for Stapleton to share his version.
Below, Welch recounts how "Millionaire" came to be -- and how he knows it was his version, rather than Burke's, from which Stapleton learned the song.
I remember being at home in Nashville. It was the beginning of a new relationship; I was optimistic and grateful. It was written pretty quickly.
One of the main things I liked, and still like, is the supposition in the chorus, the logic: "Love is more precious than gold / It can't be bought, it can't be sold" -- so, since I am surrounded by love, I must be a very rich man indeed, even though my car is old and my cupboard is sometimes bare.
A side note: I recorded it saying "That boy is sure living in luxury," and so did Chris, which tells me that Chris learned it from my version. Solomon Burke looked me dead in the eye as he was recording it and changed it to "That man ..." Solomon was a black gentleman with 90 grandchildren; he wasn't about to refer to himself as "boy." I appreciated that, and nowadays, I say "man" also.
Anyway, I was down at our house in Australia and got a call from Dianna Maher, my publisher and friend, letting me know Chris had cut it. I'm such a long-term fan and admirer of his; this has been deeply satisfying. He and Morgane do a beautiful job of it, and it is one of my favorite cuts of my career.
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