Saturday, February 2, 1985

Foreigner hit #1 with “I Want to Know What Love Is”

I Want to Know What Love Is


Writer(s): Mick Jones (see lyrics here)

Released: November 13, 1984

First Charted: December 7, 1984

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 11 GR, 12 RR, 3 AC, 85 RB, 11 AR, 13 UK, 13 CN, 15 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 2.0 UK, 4.14 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 816.09 video, 817.11 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Prior to “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Foreigner had never hit #1. They came close – in 1978 “Double Vision” made it to the runner-up spot and “Waiting for a Girl Like You” spent a whopping 10 weeks at #2 in 1981/1982. The latter was a ballad, not the typical fare for a group who’d built its following based on its classic rock hits. It made the group a little leary of releasing the “balladish” “I Want to Know What Love Is.” As guitarist Mick Jones said, “That was the one thing I was sort of dubious about – the fact that people might think we’d gone soft or something.” FB

After all, the band had built their reputation on “simple, straight-ahead rock & roll…[with] crunching guitars and lyrics about hot girls.” SS Bassist Rick Wills called the tune “fluffy” and singer Lou Gramm said, “We worried that it might do irreparable damage to our rock image.” FB However, Jones said, that “the song was so strong, and because it was coming out at Christmas, and it had the right kind of mood.” FB Ahmet Ertegun, the head the band’s label Atlantic, cried when he heard the song. SF Gramm had been “given the best tune of his life.” DM Thomas Ryan said, “It is as powerful a single as I have ever heard.” SS

Jones was inspired to write “the soul-searching rock ballad” SS after a series of failed relationship. He said, I “was still searching for something that could really endure. It became more of a universal feeling. I adjusted that during the recording of it, and ended up putting a gospel choir on it.” RC The backing vocals from the New Jersey Mass Choir marked the first time a gospel choir appeared on a #1 pop hit. SF

The song also featured keyboard work from Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, and backing vocals from Jennifer Holliday, the star from the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. The New Jersey Mass Choir released its own version of the song and hit #37 on the R&B chart. In 1998, Tina Arena recorded the song with an extended bridge written by Jones and it was a hit in Europe. WK In 2004, Wynonna Judd took the song to #14 on the adult contemporary chart; Mariah Carey went to #10 on the same chart in 2009. WK


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First posted 11/26/2020; last updated 5/1/2024.

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