“The Greatest Man I Never Knew”
Written by Richard Leigh and Layng Martine, Jr.
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
October 16, 1992
This just might be Reba McEntire’s best single.
The Road to No. 1
For My Broken Heart is one of only two Reba McEntire albums to produce three No. 1 hits. After the title track and “Is There Life Out There” topped both charts, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” went top ten only on the R&R list, and it broke a string of consecutive Billboard top ten hits dating back to 1984. She returned to the top of R&R with the fourth and final single from the album.
The No. 1
For My Broken Heart is Reba McEntire’s masterpiece. I’m going to explore that more in a standalone piece for the album’s 30th anniversary, but suffice it to say that they could’ve pulled almost any track from the album and it would be in contention for her greatest single.
“The Greatest Man I Never Knew” is the best of the four singles that were sent to radio, and might be her absolute best hit of all time.
It features a stunning vocal performance that is all grief and regret and even a little bit of resentment intertwined, as she mourns the man who kept his distance while he sacrificed all of himself for her, but could never find the words or physical affection to express to his daughter just how much she was loved.
“Then the days turned into years, and the memories to black and white. He grew cold like an old winter wind, blowing across my life.”
She mourns for what’s been lost and what was never found, for what had been and for what never was. When people wonder why the sitcom star and feisty media personality known as Reba is also considered one of the finest country music vocalists of all time, answer them with this.
The Road From No. 1
McEntire followed her top-selling studio album of all time with the triple platinum It’s Your Call. The lead single, “Take it Back,” went top five, followed by two more chart-toppers from the collection. We’ll cover them in 1993.
“The Greatest Man I Never Knew” gets an A.
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