100 Greatest Men: #10. George Strait

George Strait100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Country music has undergone drastic changes in the three decades that George Strait has been a recording artist.  While everything was changing all around him, he became the most consistently successful country artist in history by staying the same.

Strait was raised on a family farm in Texas, and as a teenager, he played in a rock and roll band.  When he joined the Army, he was stationed in Hawaii, and it was there that he began playing country music for the first time.  When he returned to Texas, he studied agriculture by day, and played gigs with his new band, Ace in the Hole, at night.

He made some independent records with the band, but was a solo act by the time a Texas industry connection helped him secure a contract with MCA Nashville.  Released during the height of the pop-flavored Urban Cowboy movement, Strait’s first album would be like every other one he’d release throughout his storied career: contemporary, but clearly and proudly country.   From the beginning, it was clear that there was a market for this approach, and Strait became one of the leaders of the New Traditionalist movement that helped bring the genre back to its roots in the eighties.  More importantly, he demonstrated that traditional country music could sell just as well as crossover country music, even with only country radio for exposure.

Strait racked up every major industry award in the eighties.  When the new country boom wiped most of his contemporaries off of the radio, he continued to prosper. A starring role in the 1992 film Pure Country provided a huge boost to his career, and the soundtrack became his top-selling studio set of all-time.  Whereas his eighties albums had usually sold platinum, his nineties releases went multi-platinum, a trend that would continue into the new century.   He became the all-time leader in #1 country singles, first matching Conway Twitty’s record of 40, then expanding his own tally to 44.

In 2006, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He added a Grammy to his collection for the first time in 2009, when Troubadour won the trophy for Best Country Album.   He was named the ACM’s Artist of the Decade for 2000-2009, winning the award for his third full decade in music.   His final tour kicked off in 2013, and the last date set an indoor concert attendance record when more than 104,000 fans showed up for his final concert, shattering the 80,000 record held by the Rolling Stones.   In honor of the tour’s overwhelming success, both the CMA and the ACM named him their Entertainer of the Year, his first win in that category since 1990.

Strait has retired from the road, but is still actively recording.  He released his 27th studio album in 2013, titled Love is Everything, and is currently working on a follow-up to that collection.

Essential Singles:

  • Amarillo by Morning, 1983
  • The Chair, 1985
  • Ocean Front Property, 1987
  • Love Without End, Amen, 1990
  • I Cross My Heart, 1992
  • Check Yes or No, 1996
  • Carrying Your Love with Me, 1997
  • The Best Day, 2000
  • I Hate Everything, 2004
  • Give it Away, 2006
  • I Saw God Today, 2008

Essential Albums:

  • Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, 1984
  • Ocean Front Property, 1987
  • Beyond the Blue Neon, 1989
  • Pure Country (Soundtrack), 1992
  • Blue Clear Sky, 1996
  • Honkytonkville, 2003
  • It Just Comes Natural, 2006
  • Troubadour, 2008

Next: #9. Bob Wills

Previous: #11. Waylon Jennings

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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9 Comments

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9 Responses to 100 Greatest Men: #10. George Strait

  1. bobNo Gravatar

    I’m not a Strait fan but about 4 years ago I was looking for songs about autumn or fall and I only found 3 country songs. One was “Chill of an Early Fall” written by Gretchen Peters and Daniel Green.

  2. I’ve always been a big Strait fan and my love and appreciation for his music only seems to increase as time goes on. Since I’d probably never have a chance to see him in concert anyway, I’m so glad he’s only retiring from touring and not retiring from recording albums, because his voice is still as good as ever! The other amazing thing about him is that I can’t remember any controversy or scandal (Even Alan Jackson can’t say that.) surrounding him. the only ripple has been the death of his daughter many years ago and he seems to have handled that tragedy with amazing grace and class.

  3. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    If I was going by personal favorites, George Strait might have been #1. If we revisit this list again a few years down the road, I would not be surprised to see him even higher than he is now.

    As is, he’s the only artist in the top ten that wasn’t already active in the sixties or earlier.

  4. GregNo Gravatar

    Great write up. Gotta say I’m completely surprised…I really had him nailed as #1

  5. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I’ve been a George Strait fan from the first MCA album to the present day – I have all of them, sometimes in multiple formats. Because George’s music is always good, sometimes very good but rarely great, I am not as passionate about his music as are many of his fans.

    George’s best records are not in the same class as the best records of Haggard or Cash or Jones or Frizzell or Hank Sr & Jr. or Twitty or Gosdin or countless others. Where George Strait stands out is that he made so MANY good singles, with rarely a drop in quality and for that he surely belongs in the top ten

  6. andythedrifterNo Gravatar

    I agree 100% with Paul.

  7. Tom PNo Gravatar

    I agreee with Paul too (on this one).
    Always good, but somehow lacking iconic hits as the others on this list. Kinda like the male Reba. Always good, but never taking eneough chances to get that legendary song that I think all legends need.

  8. Glad to see George Strait on this list! Well deserved!

  9. TomNo Gravatar

    …it’s the ease of george strait’s delivery that masks his brilliant and almost second to none interpretation skills – even mar them at times.

    “i can still make cheyenne”, for example, is one of the best country songs that exists. obviously, dealing with an almost stereotypical rodeo life situation, it is also a great depiction of how a man’s mind works in situations that are too hard to handle. he just overrides it somehow and hangs on to the nearest safety device – in this particular case a bull- or bronco ride in cheyenne. the cowboy’s more or less rational way of “running off” the pain.

    his “beyond the blue neon” album of 89 is one of those country records that you can hand to a marsian to explain what country music is all about, without speaking a word. i don’t think george strait suffers to a certain degree from lack of greatness. there is rather almost too much there, making his great songs at times nearly appear like a given.

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