Saturday, February 2, 1985

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

First posted 11/26/2020; updated 3/16/2021.

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 CN, 12 RR, 3 AC, 85 RB, 11 AR, 13 UK, 13 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.6 UK, 2.6 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 108.0 video, -- streaming

Awards: (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.” BR1

However, as Jones said, that “the song was so strong, and because it was coming out at Christmas, and it had the right kind of mood.” BR1 The group didn’t all agree. Bassist Rick Wills called the tune “fluffy” and singer Lou Gramm said, “We worried that it might do irreparable damage to our rock image.” BR1 Not everyone had that reaction, though. Ahmet Ertegun, the head the band’s label Atlantic, cried when he heard the song. SF

The song also featured backing vocals from the New Jersey Mass Choir (the first gospel choir to appear on a #1 pop hit), SF keyboard work from Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, and 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

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Foreigner
  • DMDB page for parent album Agent Provocateur
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 601.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

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