Peak: #11 Country | #87 Pop
Written by Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton often repeats the story of how “I Will Always Love You” was inspired by her desire to split with Porter Wagoner. Another of her strongest compositions was inspired by this split.
In her 1994 autobiography, My Life and Other Unfinished Business, she writes:
A few weeks after I left, I went to Porter’s office and we tried to work out as many business details as we could without fighting. He really made very little effort to get me to change my mind. I think he realized it was over.
As I left his office and began to drive toward my home out on Crockett Road, it began to rain. So did I. I cried, not so much out of a sense of loss, but from the pain that always comes from change. It was a sad kind of freedom. Then I began to sing a song to myself, “It’s been a long dark night and I been waitin’ for the morning. It’s been a long hard fight, but I see a brand new day a-dawnin’. I’ve been looking for the sunshine, ain’t seen it in so long. Everything’s gonna work out just fine. Everything’s gonna be all right that’s been all wrong. And I can see the light of a clear blue morning.”
And I swear to you on my life, the sky cleared up, it stopped raining, the sun came out, and before I got home, I had written the song “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” It was my song of deliverance. It was my song of freedom, and I knew that God was in it. I knew that I was free. And when the Lord has set you free “Ye are free indeed.”
The soaring record, which begins with an intimate piano and slowly builds to a triumphant gospel climax, musically mirrored her new freedom. It was the centerpiece of her first true crossover album, New Harvest…First Gathering. which had minor impact at country and pop radio, but became her first #1 country LP and won her the American Music Award for Favorite Country Album.
It stands proudly among her greatest works to date, a masterclass of both songwriting and vocal performance. It also serves as evidence that the widely held belief that Parton’s work had less merit when she crossed over is shortsighted. With “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” she started a string of singles in 1977 and 1978 that rivaled her 1974 and 1975 run that included “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “The Bargain Store.” If one were to attempt a single disc collection of Parton’s best work, it would be incomplete and insufficient without the inclusion of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”
Next: Here You Come Again