“Stranger Things Have Happened”
Written by Roger Murrah and Keith Stegall
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
April 13, 1990
Another huge seventies and eighties country star tops the charts for the last time.
The Road to No. 1
By the time the nineties rolled around, Ronnie Milsap was already one of the most successful country artists in history. He’d spent the better part of two decades dueling with Charley Pride and Conway Twitty for the “Most No. 1 Singles” record, a title that Twitty ultimately won and held on to until he was eclipsed by George Strait many years later. He was the first artist to win the CMA Award for Album of the Year three times, taking it home as recently as 1986 for his Lost in the Fifties Tonight LP, which beat out a crowded field of new traditionalists.
And as the decade turned, radio was still very much on board. Milsap’s album output had slowed from releasing new albums annually to releasing them every other year, but he remained a consistent presence because those later albums produced multiple hit singles.
Thus was the case with Stranger Things Have Happened. Released in 1989, two of the album’s first three singles – “Don’t You Ever Get Tired (of Hurting Me)” and “A Woman in Love” – had topped the charts, the latter being his final release to do so on the Billboard survey. In between those two chart-toppers, “Houston Solution” had made it to the top five. With another new album still a year away, RCA sent the title track to radio.
The No. 1
“Stranger Things Have Happened” has that classic Milsap sound, with a piano-heavy sixties feel. His blue-eyed soulful singing shines brightly on the chorus, where he leans into that pleading wail that had served him so well on so many hits before.
But it all has a paint-by-numbers feel, perhaps because the lyric simply isn’t strong enough to carry it across the finish line. The writers can’t seem to decide on the metaphor they want to run with, so it devolves into a generic heartache ballad that goes back over ground he’d already covered before and better.
That was good enough for early 1990, but it wouldn’t get the job done for much longer.
The Road From No. 1
Milsap was able to keep the hits going with one more studio album, Back to the Grindstone, which released in 1991. Three singles from it made the Billboard top ten, with another just missing it, stopping at No. 11. A single from his third hits collection in 1992 broke his hit streak, peaking outside the top forty. A label switch to Liberty/Capitol produced a fresh energy to his sound, but couldn’t get him beyond the top thirty on the singles chart.
Milsap still remained a heavy presence on the road, and continued to release new music. He received a well-earned induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014.
“Stranger Things Have Happened” gets a B-.
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