10 Essential George Strait Songs

With a catalog that includes sixty number one hits, what are some of your favorites? That’s a tough one to answer, but here’s a list of ten Strait classics that we definitely consider “essential.”

10 Essential George Strait Songs
George Strait; Photo credit: Erika Goldring for MCA Nashville

As hard as it is to fathom, this Thursday marks the 65th birthday of the man who many consider to be the king of modern-day Country Music – George Strait. With a catalog that includes sixty number one hits, what are some of your favorites? That’s a tough one to answer, but here’s a list of ten Strait classics that we definitely consider “Essential” – and two of them didn’t even top the chart!

(Arranged chronologically)

“Fool Hearted Memory,” – from Strait From The Heart

Thirty-five years ago this August, Strait hit number one of the charts for the very first time with a song that defines everything that was great about Country Music in the 1980s. Blake Mevis, who produced the song, didn’t have to look too far for it – he co-wrote it with rising tunesmith Byron Hill. Did you know this was the first of his chart-toppers to be included in a movie – The Soldier – ten years before another movie he appeared in…

“Amarillo By Morning,” – from Strait From The Heart

You might not know this, but George wasn’t the first to record this song about the lonesome life of a rodeo cowboy. Composer Terry Stafford actually cut the song in 1973. Chris LeDoux cut the song two years later, but it took the song until Strait added his vocals to it for it to become a classic.

“The Fireman,” – from Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind

Perhaps the most cocky of any Strait singles, this Mack Vickery / Wayne Kemp hit defied logic. The song only hit No.5 on the singles chart – along with “The Cowboy Rides Away,” the song that preceded it in release. But, how many shows has Strait performed since that hasn’t included either of those “lesser hits?” We’d say not many, if any.

“The Chair,” – from Something Special
Unlike many Country songs, this one has no chorus. But, it did have four things in its’ favor – two Nashville Songwriting Hall of Fame members in Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran as authors, a video featuring many gorgeous models, and one of the most irresistible melodies of any Country hit ever. And, we’re still listening!

“All My Ex’s Live In Texas,” – from Ocean Front Property

Strait had pulled off a first in the winter of the year with the release of his Ocean Front Property album, which became the first to debut atop the Country Albums chart. Helping to spur sales of that throughout the summer of 1987 was this Sanger / Linda Shafer composition about a man who seemingly has an ex all throughout the Lone Star State. The humorous lyrics earned the couple a CMA Song of the Year award nomination.

“Love Without End, Amen,” – from Livin’ It Up

Strait debuted this song on the 1990 Academy of Country Music Awards, and radio stations across America soon found themselves flooded with requests for the Aaron Barker composition, which also received a smattering of airplay from Gospel stations, with the tender lyrics about the bond between a father and a son.

“I Cross My Heart,” – from Pure Country

One of the most popular Country wedding songs of the past twenty-five years, this romantic ballad served as the centerpiece for Pure Country, the box-office vehicle that gave Strait his first – and so far, only – leading role. Steve Dorff and Eric Kaz penned the lyrics – this much we know, but was it Strait….or “Dusty?” At least it wasn’t Buddy Jackson!

“Check Yes Or No,” – from Strait Out Of The Box

When MCA Nashville gave the green light to release a four-CD Strait box set, they knew they needed a song with undeniable staying power. Enter into the picture Danny Wells and Dana Hunt Black, who touched a nerve of something that we’ve all done at one point or another, giving the singer one of his biggest hits.

“I Just Want To Dance With You,” – from One Step At A Time

Strait has long been an admirer of singer-songwriter John Prine. It was Prine’s version on a 1980s album titled German Afternoons that influenced Strait to cut the song. The light-hearted love song became the singer’s 34th chart-topper.

“Give It Away,” – from It Just Comes Natural

When you combine the talents of Buddy Cannon, Jamey Johnson and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson, the results should be impressive, and in this case, that was an understatement. Twenty-five years into Strait’s major-label recording career, and this was his first Gold-selling single. Not that either of the writers needed any more metal for their shelves, but the ACM and the CMA both named this smash hit about a woman’s particular cruel way of leaving as their Song of the Year