Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Wynonna

wynonnaA Guest Contribution
by Michael Allan

One of my earliest musical memories is singing along to the Judds’ Rockin’ With the Rhythm album as a child in the car. Unfortunately, the world’s most famous mother-daughter duo was forced to end their career early in 1991 when Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis. To this day, however, their catchy songs still get plenty of “spins” on my iPod.

Even if Wynonna had never pursued a solo career after the Judds, her place in country music’s history would have been secure. However, I for one am so happy she did continue to sing and make music after her mother’s retirement. Her voice has a distinct personality, yet her catalog is eclectic. You never really know what to expect when Wy releases a new album – except that it will most likely be good.

However, beyond her music (which you will read about below), being the woman in a poster on my teenage bedroom wall and being my first autograph (scored by my grandmother when the CMA Music Festival was still called Fan Fair), I have a great deal of respect for Wynonna the person. She devotes countless hours of time to charities such as YouthAIDS and faces potential scandals and her personal struggles with remarkable candor and humor, all the while sharing the gift of her voice with us.

“Why Now”
from The Other Side (1997)

We’ve all been there or know someone who has. You can’t help loving someone, even if you know they’re bad for you. Wynonna’s voice and singing style capture the emotions and feelings of pain that go along with it. One of the Judds’ later singles from Love Can Build a Bridge that is often overlooked, “One Hundred and Two”, is similar in spirit and comes highly recommended.

“Father Sun”
from Tell Me Why (1993)

With cryptic lyrics co-written by Sheryl Crow, this pop nugget has an almost mystical quality to it.

“Always Will”
from The Other Side (1997)

Wynonna’s voice is in fine form on the closing tune from her 1997 album. It glides comfortably over the lyrics and a strumming guitar. A love song filled with promises, it is a wish that, from time to time as love evolves, you will be surprised by how new, exciting and powerful it can still be. Maybe Wynonna even viewed this as a love song to her children.

from Her Story: Scenes from a Lifetime (2005)

The title says it all in this one. This rockin’, defiant anthem is her last Top 40 hit to date.

“Woman to Woman”
from Tammy Wynette Remembered (1998)

Wy’s soulful, sultry take on a classic, from the First Lady of Country Music.

from Sing Chapter 1 (2009)

To celebrate her 25th anniversary in the music business Wynonna released a stellar collection of covers (Her take on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Dionne Warwick’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, in particular, are worth seeking out.). Here the master interpreter takes on the project’s title cut and lone new song, written by the great Rodney Crowell.

“Girls With Guitars”
from Tell Me Why (1993)

Mary Chapin Carpenter penned this ode for all the women who’ve played their guitars instead of pursuing law school and medicine (even you, Taylor Swift). An empowering anthem like this makes me miss the 90s which was a much better decade for women in country music than the last ten years have been. Lyle Lovett sings background vocals.

“Free Bird”
from Skynyrd Frynds (1994)

The Holy Grail of rock songs (Dolly Parton’s take on “Stairway to Heaven” notwithstanding.). Taking on this epic, iconic anthem is a daunting task, but Wynonna makes it work. It’s hard not to be entranced by the way her voices wraps around the guitar. For another fine example of Wy’s ability to effectively tackle rock songs, track down her version of Dire Strait’s “Water of Love” from the Judds’ River of Time album.

“Heaven Help My Heart”
from Revelations (1996)

Co-written by Australian pop star Tina Arena, it’s no coincidence this is one of Wynonna’s most pop sounding songs. I’m betting the gusto of her strong voice almost blew the roof off the studio the day she recorded this earnest plea for love. My favorite part of this almost six minute song is when she hums her way into the third line of the second verse.

“You Are”
from Someone Like You (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2001)

Wynonna had a hand in writing this mid-tempo, moving dedication to her sister Ashley. Here’s hoping we all find someone in life that we love and respect enough to sing this to.

“No One Else On Earth (Club Mix)”
from Collection (1997)

Wy’s signature about love’s ability to crack even the toughest of nuts. This particular mix may sound a little dated, but I like it because you can definitely feel the 90s country (my favorite era)/line dance vibe.

“That Was Yesterday”
from Tell Me Why (1993)

With her signature sly growls and purrs, this bluesy track (written by mother Naomi) is perhaps the best example of Wynonna’s range. It is a scathing done me wrong number that warns against crossing Wy. The nefarious cackle she gives when her man gets what he deserves lets us know that this is a new day and that… was yesterday.

“A Bad Goodbye”
from No Time To Kill (1993)

Wynonna has had a number of great duet partners in her career since going solo (Kenny Rogers, John Berry, Michael English, Tammy Wynette), but none as commercially successful as her pairing with Clint Black. This classic, sad country duet came together as a result of the Black & Wy tour and their voices compliment each other well. A great song made perfect the second you hear Wynonna’s voice enter.

“Rock Bottom”
from Tell Me Why (1993)

With lyrics like “When you hit rock bottom, you’ve got two ways to go: straight and sideways… Straight up is my way,” “When you get down to nothin’, you’ve got nothin’ to lose,” and “A dead end street is just a place to turn around,” this song is more inspiring than any motivational poster I’ve ever seen.

“It’s Never Easy to Say Goodbye”
from Wynonna (1992)

The stories of Jimmy and his mom, Julie Rae and her dad and other lost friends morph into a gospel-esque final verse that would fit right in at church. It was later covered by Kenny Chesney on his 1996 album Me and You.

“Burning Love”
from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch Soundtrack (2002)

I defy you not to shake your hips when listening to Wynonna’s excellent, fun take on the King’s classic. There’s nothing G Rated about this hot ditty.

“Can’t Nobody Love You (Like I Do)”
from New Day Dawning (2000)

This beautiful, piano laden ballad is both soft and sexy and would fit in comfortably on AC radio stations.

“All of That Love From Here”
from Wynonna (1992)

With a prominent mandolin and strong imagery provided by the details, this tune has an almost dreamlike quality. Lyrics about mama and chasing dreams probably took on a significant autobiographical aspect for Wynonna as she was striking out on her own for the first time in her career at this point. (“Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis” from What the World Needs Now Is Love is another example of a song that feels like it could have been written by her.)

“What the World Needs Now”
from What the World Needs Now Is Love (2003)

Some may say the lyrics are clichéd but I find that this song just proves how a sincere, simple message can remain true. I remember this track coming on my iPod one day when I was running on a treadmill and watching a closed captioned CNN report about a school shooting. It put a lump in my throat and brought a tear to my eye.

“She Is His Only Need”
from Wynonna (1992)

This three act story song (reminiscent of the Judds’ “Young Love (Strong Love)”) is the sweet tale of Billy and Bonnie. It served as Wy’s solo debut single and her first number one.

“O Come O Come Emmanuel”
from A Classic Christmas (2006)

Like Celine Dion’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and Martina McBride’s “O Holy Night” before it, Wynonna’s version of this Christmas standard has now become the definitive version in my book. Wy exercises restraint and bravado at appropriate levels in the right spots. Essential December listening. Also worth checking out during the holidays are “Let’s Make a Baby King” and “Ave Maria”.

“Come Some Rainy Day”
from The Other Side (1997)

You can’t help but be taken back to your childhood and then high school years when listening to this song, even if your experiences aren’t exactly the same as those painted in the lyrics. A gorgeous reminder to remember our dreams. Simply stunning.

“Is It Over Yet”
from Tell Me Why (1993)

Wynonna captures the pain and heartache of breaking up in this lush ballad. Piano, strings and her voice convey an illustration more powerful than even the lyrics suggest. If she’s not going to cry, I just might. A similar song also worth downloading is the smoldering “Don’t Look Back” from Revelations.

“I Want to Know What Love Is”
from What the World Needs Now Is Love (2003)

Our vocal powerhouse’s tour de force. Wynonna really lets loose on this number and shows us what she’s capable of. She’s never sounded better and with Jeff Beck assisting on guitar, listening becomes a downright religious experience. This is no longer Foreigner’s song. It belongs to Wynonna now.

“When I Reach the Place I’m Going”
from Wynonna (1992)

In a morbid sort of way, I’ve always known what song I want played at my funeral. (To be fair, I’m not the only one. My mom has long stated that she wants Willie Nelson’s “What a Wonderful World” played at hers.) Although brief (clocking in at less than three minutes), this song is in the vein of some of the Judds’ greatest spiritual hits (Think “I Know Where I’m Going”.) and in fact, features background vocals by Naomi. Written by Emory Gordy, Jr., it was later covered by his wife Patty Loveless on 2005’s Dreamin’ My Dreams.


  1. Excellent song choices, my personal favorite is “Is It Over Yet”
    I was born in 1986, and my dad always tells me that my very first favorite country act was “The Judds” and I can still remember sitting infront of the TV watching TNN and waiting for “Love Can Build A Bridge” And being a 6 year old listening to the line in ‘Noone Else on Earth’ when she sings “I shivered once, you broke into my soul….” and thinking ‘Broke in???Anyone call the cops?” Ah to be a kid again

  2. There’s only 6 or 7 country songs on this list (country being defined as not pop). The Judds were country. Wynonna has a roving portfolio.

    I’d add “A Little Bit of Love” – a very, very fine country song.

    I like “When I Reach the Place I’m Going” alot. Why did Brad Paisley re-make it?

  3. Nice choices, but I mostly enjoyed your comments on these songs. I would also put ‘Is It Over Yet’ at the top of my list.

    It is evident, looking over this list of songs that spans Wynonna’s solo career, that she didn’t really want to record only country music. We’ve said it a few times in various places in the last couple weeks, but Naomi was definitely the one behind The Judds sound, since Wynonna’s solo work has gotten further and further away from it as time went by.

  4. I liked the Judds sound, JR. Within the first 15 seconds of virtually any Judds song, you knew it was a Judds song – even without a second of vocals. And they never sounded like they were doing the same thing over and over.

    What happened to acts with a sound? Maybe they died with Buck Owens and Johnny Cash. Who knows.

  5. I’m a huge fan of The Judds sound too – even more so than Wynonna’s solo sound really. And I definitely agree it’s instantly recognizable. I didn’t mean to imply I didn’t like the music the duo made. I was simply pointing out that Naomi provided more to the pair’s musical direction than one would have thought.

  6. No implication implied. And I agree: Naomi might be a trainwreck off stage – and even on stage when she’s not singing (actually you didn’t say that, so that’s not the point I’m agreeing on). But in hindsight, she (probably with Brett Maher and Don Potter) really crafted a unique and recognizable sound.

  7. Great post, Michael.

    I prefer the Judds sound over Wynonna’s too, but I like a good part of Wy’s work as well. Two songs that I would have on my list are “Flies on the Butter” and “Rescue Me.” While I’m not fond of the Journey cover, I think “Is It Over Yet” is one of my faves too.

  8. I like a lot of the Judds singles, but I think that Wynonna has made more interesting and rewarding music on her own than she did as a duo with her mom.

    Quite a few of my favorites didn’t make the cut, even though I enjoy the vast majority of the songs on this list.

    “Is it Over Yet” has been mentioned already, but among her other singles, I most miss “My Strongest Weakness” and “Flies on the Butter.”

    Two album cuts that are probably my favorite songs she ever did: “Love By Grace” and “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis”, which would be two of my top three overall (the third being “Come Some Rainy Day”) in some order or another.

    Great work on the list. It’s always nice to see some love for Wynonna.

  9. Thank you. This list would probably change with the day but I do regret leaving off “My Strongest Weakness” and “I Just Drove By” and, to a lesser extent “Only Love” and “To Be Loved By You”. I knew some people would be surprised not to see “Flies on the Butter” as I saw that one come up in a lot of discussions of the non-hit singles of the decade, but that’s just one I could never get into for some reason. I love the Judds but that one didn’t do it for me.

  10. The Judds were finished by the time I got into country music full time so I’m not familiar with most of their material.

    It was “A Bad Goodbye” that really got me into country duets. I also liked Wynonna’s duet with John Berry, “We Can’t Unmake Love”. Of her solo efforts not mentioned above, I would include “The Kind of Fool Love Makes”, “When Love Starts Talking” and “Who Am I Trying to Fool”.

  11. My number one from Wy would be either “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis” or “Heaven Help Me”…. “What The World Needs Now” is one of my favorite albums of all time. period.

    Good list though, I liked your choices.

  12. I felt inspired to make my own list:

    25. Chain Reaction
    24. Women Be Wise
    23. All Of That Love From Here
    22. I Just Drove By
    21. Heaven Help My Heart
    20. Dance! Shout!
    19. Is It Over Yet
    18. Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis
    17. The House Is Rockin’
    16. Attitude
    15. Free Bird
    14. It’s The Messiah
    13. Don’t Look Back
    12. What The World Needs
    11. It’s Never Easy To Say Goodbye
    10. Tuff Enuff
    9. I Will Be
    8. No One Else On Earth
    7. Come Some Rainy Day
    6. Tell Me Why
    5. Learning To Live With Love Again
    4. Are The Good Times Really Over
    3. I Want To Know What Love Is
    2. My Strongest Weakness
    1. That Was Yesterday

  13. I love all of these songs and “Is It Over Yet” has to come in #1 for me. Not a big fan of “Girls With Guitars” and “Attitude” but cant deny the voice!! Excellent list

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