image from rollingstone.com
Willie Nelson “Always on My Mind”
Writer(s): Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James (see lyrics here)
First charted: 3/6/1982
Peak: 5 US, 2 AC, 12 CW, 49 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US and UK)
Radio Airplay (in millions): 5.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 44.7
Review: This song “is virtually the definition of a modern pop standard.” AMG B.B. King told Esquire magazine in the January 2006 issue that this was his favorite song. SF While the ballad format of the song may be conventional, its theme of a love affair’s end instead of its beginning is a break from the more traditional love song that becomes a pop standard. AMG The narrator confesses guilt and regret AMG over not always doing what he should have to show appreciation for the object of his affection. SF
With its “expressive melody and dramatic lyrics” AMG the song was “a natural for vocalists.” AMG Brenda Lee had a minor country hit with it in 1972. That same year, Elvis Presley had a gold single with his version that went top 20 on the U.S. pop charts and top 10 in the U.K.
In 1982, Willie Nelson gave the song its greatest success yet, taking it to the top of the U.S. country charts and into the top 5 on both the pop and adult contemporary charts. His version was also a platinum seller and multiple award winner. While other versions risked sounding “melodramatic or corny,” AMG Willie’s take on the song “emphasized the pain and sorrow of the lyrics.” AMG
Before the close of the ‘80s, the song became a hit again, but this time it was recast as a dance song. The Pet Shop Boys performed it for an Elvis tribute show on the BBC SF and then released a single of the song. Their version actually outdid Nelson’s in terms of chart performance – it went a notch higher on the U.S. pop charts (#4) and went to the top of the U.K. charts. Nonetheless, “the best version will always belong to Willie Nelson.” CC
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