Saturday, March 21, 1981

REO Speedwagon “Keep on Loving You” hit #1

Keep on Loving You

REO Speedwagon

Writer(s): Kevin Cronin (see lyrics here)

Released: November 4, 1980

First Charted: November 29, 1980

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 2 RR, 1 CL, 9 AR, 7 UK, 2 CN, 3 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.2 UK, 2.2 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 80.8 video, 217.45 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“For at least a few years in the early ’80s, REO Speedwagon became quite possibly the biggest rock band in America.” SG They formed in 1967 and built a following during the ‘70s from constant touring, but hadn’t become a real chart threat, having peaked with the “radio-rock nugget ‘Time for Me to Fly’” SG at a mere #56. According to Kevin Cronin, the band’s lead singer, the group “didn’t know the Billboard charts from a cookbook.” FB

“Keep on Loving You” “changed everything for REO Speedwagon, and for power balladry in general.” SG It “made effective use of that formula: Slow build, enormous crashing melodramatic chorus, triumphantly blazing guitar solo, quick coda.” SG As Cronin said, “I realized that you can take a ballad and put the energy there…It doesn’t have to be fast and loud.” FB

Cronin wrote the song after finding out his wife had cheated on him before they were married. In the song, he is “clearly bitter about what’s happened, but he pledges to remain with this woman anyway.” SG He called it, “the most painful song I ever wrote.” SF He and his wife divorced a few years later. Cronin shared how couples told him “it was the first dance at their wedding or its ‘their song’…My first thought is always, ‘Wait. Did you listen to the verses of the song?” SF

It is a “rough song” SG but it “became a slow-dance anthem because of the chorus, which is the part of the song that everyone actually remembers.” SG “Cronin might be pouring his heart out on the long first verse, but he almost seems to be killing time before the monster hook, the lighters-up moment.” SG

The band didn’t want to record the piano-based song because it was too soft but it worked once Gary Richrath’s “big, crashing guitar chords lent [it] weight and force.” SG “Cronin’s pinched and reedy voice gets bigger and more robust as the song keeps going. Underneath him, the backing vocals sound like a choir. The pianos gleam. The guitar solo wails. It’s all very sharp and precise and professional – a cheap-seats rocker that just barely pierces your consciousness when it plays over in-store speakers in a Walgreens.” SG


  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 539.
  • SF Songfacts
  • SG Stereogum (4/27/2020). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 6/29/2022; last updated 10/28/2022.

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