Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Ricky Van Shelton, “Statue of a Fool”

“Statue of a Fool”

Ricky Van Shelton

Written by Jan Crutchfield

Radio & Records 

#1 (1 week)

January 26, 1990

Ricky Van Shelton took another classic country song to the top, keeping his eighties momentum going into the nineties.

The Road to No. 1

By the turn of the decade, Ricky Van Shelton was an A-list superstar.  The reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year already had two platinum albums under his belt, along with several No. 1 singles.  A new traditionalist of the highest order, everything Shelton sang sounded like something from an earlier era, even when he was tackling newly written material.  But many of his big hits were covers of decades-old songs like “From a Jack to a King,” “I’ll Leave This World Loving You,” and “Life Turned Her That Way.”

The No. 1

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the lead single from his third collection, RVS III, was also a cover.  Shelton was the fourth artist to chart with “Statue of a Fool.”  Jack Greene took it to No. 1 in 1969, and Brian Collins to No. 10 just five years later.  Pop singer Bill Medley also dented the charts with his version.

As Shelton covers go, this one doesn’t shine quite as bright as the songs mentioned above, for which the case could be made that Shelton recorded the definitive versions.  Part of the reason is Shelton’s voice is simply too strong.  He delivers the song with such force and confidence that it cuts against the forlorn self-loathing of the lyric, which Jack Greene captured perfectly in his chart-topping original.

The Road From No. 1

RVS III was the first Shelton album where he shines best on the contemporary material, and from this point on, Shelton will top the chart with original recordings.

“Statue of Fool” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Eddie Rabbitt, “On Second Thought”


  1. I was a big RVS fan – as you noted, he somewhat overpowered this fine ballad but his version was still good, just not definitive.

    Unfortunately Jack Greene has been largely forgotten (and little of his Decca/MCA output has make it to the digital world), but he was a finely nuanced singer. I was living in England at the time Jack’s version was released and while it never charted on the BBC, journalists covering the British Country Music scene loved Jack Greene as a vocalist. Moreover, he song did receive some airplay on the BBC, and twice I heard local pop/rock bands cover the song in live performance.

  2. Just dug out Rich Kienzle’s album review of “Ricky Van Shelton III from the March/April 1990 issue of ” Country Music” magazine.

    Kienzle wrote: Speaking of the remakes, Side One’s are very bit as strong as they’ve been on the last two albums, obviously selected to fit Ricky’s vocal style. He turns “Statue of a Fool,” a Number one record 20 years ago for Jack Greene, into a powerful and compelling performance that ranks with any of his best ballads.”

    I always was totally gobsmacked by Shelton’s voice and thought it was in top form on this retro country power ballad. It was powerful and compelling to me ears then, and it still is today.

    This performance is a big reason I celebrate Shelton’s work as some of the best of his era.

  3. I generally agree with Peter Saros and Rich Kienzle here (Love and miss Country Music Magaine!). I’ve also always regarded this as one of Ricky’s finest vocal performances, though I can understand Kevin’s point about Jack Greene’s performance capturing the emotion of the lyrics more. I personally love both versions. That said, Ricky’s version still gives me chills when I hear it, especially from the line “So build me a statue…” to the final “After me.”

    I do agree that he generally shined more on the original material than the covers at this point in his career. From this album, I especially think both “I’m Starting Over” and “You Would Do The Same For Me” would’ve made great singles. Of all the late 80’s artists whose careers began to taper off later in the 90’s, RVS is one who I really wish lasted a bit longer. Always really loved his smooth voice and 50’s and 60’s throwback style.

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