Top 10 Alabama Songs
One of the most-beloved groups in country music, Alabama have a history spanning 40 years of hits. Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry, along with former member Mark Herndon, have charted more than 60 singles -- covering everything from the blue-collar worker to romance and heartbreak -- making them one of the most successful (and longest-lasting) bands in any genre.
While it's nearly impossible to narrow down Alabama's extensive list of tunes to just 10 favorites, below, The Boot ranks our picks for the group's 10 best songs.
"Love in the First Degree" was Alabama's fifth consecutive No. 1 single, and it remains one of their most successful. Reigning in the top spot for two straight weeks, this song also became a Top 10 pop hit, marking the group's first time on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Written by Jim Hunt and Tim DuBois, "Love in the First Degree" earned Alabama plenty of crossover fans.
The title track of Alabama's first album for RCA Victor, this song also became the group's first Top 20 hit. Written by Owen and Gentry, "My Home's in Alabama" -- which says, "Then I moved on to LA / Up to New York City / All across the USA / I lost so much of me / But there's enough of me to say that / My home's in Alabama / No matter where I lay my head / My home's in Alabama / Southern born and Southern bred" -- is about the band's desire to not give in to pressures to change their music for more commercial appeal.
"Probably the most edited song that we've ever done was "My Home's in Alabama," which was originally about 11 minutes long," Gentry tells Songfacts. "It was edited down to six-and-a-half minutes for the single, which was still one of the longest singles ever at radio."
After a series of uptempo hits, Alabama showed their softer side with "When We Make Love." The sexy tune, in which they croon, "There's a light in your eyes tonight / You know I'd know that look anywhere / You've got plans, and I'm one lucky man / Before we get so carried away / There's just something I've been wanting to say," was also a Top 10 pop hit.
This truck driver anthem was undoubtedly heard from coast to coast when it first hit the airwaves in early 1984. But, fun fact: The song, which says, "Roll on, highway, roll on along / Roll on, daddy, 'til you get back home / Roll on, family, roll on, crew / Roll on, momma, like I asked you to do / And roll on, 18-wheeler, roll on," was shortened about 40 seconds from its album version when it was released to radio.
Although none of the members of Alabama wrote "High Cotton," they were familiar enough with the subject of the song to make it their own. The lyrics, which say "I bet we walked a thousand miles / Choppin' cotton and pushing plows / And learnin' how to give it all we had," were very similar to how at least two of the three men grew up.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you, me and Teddy know what it's like to plant cotton, chop cotton and pick cotton," Owen said during a performance at the Ryman Auditorium. We're cotton-pickers ... along with pickup drivers."
"Tennessee River," written by Owen, was the first of the Alabama's No. 1 hits, kicking off a string of 21 chart-topping singles. Written about nostalgia for home and regret over leaving the place where the "Tennessee river and a mountain man" can "get together anytime we can," this song was included on several of the group's compilation albums, including a live version with with an extra verse, which is on their first Greatest Hits album, released in 1986.
This uptempo song starts with its chorus, referencing both Bob Wills' "Faded Love" and "Louisiana Man" by Doug Kershaw in its lyrics. A fan favorite since it was released in the summer of '84, Alabama still open many of their shows with this hit single, more than 30 years later.
"Dixieland Delight," written by Ronnie Rogers, was inspired by a drive that Rogers took in eastern Tennessee. Saying, "Worked hard all week / Got a little jingle / On a Tennessee Saturday night / Couldn't feel better / I'm together with my dixieland delight," this song was recorded much slower on the demo than it is in the final version recorded by Alabama.
"Mountain Music," written by Owen, is one of the few Alabama songs that also features Gentry and Cook on lead vocals. The lyrics -- "Oh, play me some mountain music / Like grandma and grandpa used to play / Then I'll float on down the river / To a Cajun hideaway" -- reportedly took Owen three years to write, but it was time well spent. The song earned the trio their first Grammy, and helped Mountain Music become the first album by a country act to earn quadruple-platinum status, for sales of more than 4 million copies.
Bob McDill wrote "Song of the South," which was recorded by several other artists, including Johnny Russell and as a duet between Tom T. Hall and Earl Scruggs. But it was Alabama who made it a No. 1 hit, perhaps in part due to the song's accompanying video, which was mostly black-and-white photos from the Depression era. The video, much more of a novelty in 1989 than they are all these years later, showed actual footage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking during the lines that say, "Well, somebody told us Wall Street fell / But we were so poor that we couldn't tell / Cotton was short, and the weeds were tall / But Mr. Roosevelt's a-gonna save us all."