Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Patty Loveless, “Here I Am”

“Here I Am”

Patty Loveless

Written by Tony Arata

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 10, 1995

In the year of the woman, a veteran female artist moves to the head of the class.

The Road to No. 1

After topping the chart with her Epic debut single, “Blame it On My Heart,” three more singles were released from Only What I Feel: “Nothin’ But the Wheel” went top twenty, “You Will” went top ten, and “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” went top five.   Loveless then released her second Epic album, the critically acclaimed When Fallen Angels Fly.  After its first single, “I Try to Think About Elvis,” went top five, the next two singles from the eventual platinum seller went No. 1.

The No. 1

Radio would never embrace women when they became the top sellers of the genre to the same extent that they supported the superstar men from the first half of the decade.  As encouraging as it may seem that Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, and Patty Loveless all had No. 1 singles in the first six weeks of 1995, we will only see male artists at number one for the last five months of the year.

That being said, “Here I Am” is as big a signifier of women taking the creative lead in country music as the first No. 1 from a Canadian superstar will signal their coming commercial dominance in the summer of 1995.

“Here I Am,” simply stated, is a masterpiece.  Patty Loveless gives a nuanced performance that gradually reveals an unreliable narrator, as her chilly observations of her struggling ex not being able to get over her is slowly replaced by her revelation that she’s not over him, either.

The way her guard momentarily drops in the second verse as she notes, “You know I’ve seen them all unravel…I’ve been watching it all along,” is easy to miss upon first listen, but impossible to miss once you’ve heard it a second time.

This segues into the guard being dropped completely with the nakedly vulnerable bridge and final chorus:  “My pride was stronger when I was younger, now I’d rather have you to know….that here I am, here I am.  I still carry a flame for you, burning me like a brand. Here I am.”

Emory Gordy Jr.’s production of Loveless truly comes into its own on this album, and this track is the perfect showcase of how instrumentation can be used to support a stunning vocal performance without getting in the way of the singer or the song.

With “Here I Am” and the album that houses it, Loveless moves to the head of the class of female country artists in the nineties, putting her in the same league as Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.   It’s the best No. 1 single of 1995 and one of the very best of the entire decade.

The Road From No. 1

Gretchen Peters finally returns to No. 1 with the next Loveless single, which will top the chart later in 1995.

“Here I Am” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Sawyer Brown, “This Time” |

Next: Wade Hayes, “Old Enough to Know Better”

12 Comments

  1. One of my all time favorite songs! Love the music video too. The images of her face surrounded by a black circle to emulated him seeing her in the bottom of his shit glass are sticking and perfect. Patty does sad like no other, her stage name couldn’t have been more perfect!

    4
  2. Reflect on the amount of time Sawyer Brown and Patty Loveless were allowed to grow into their best versions of themselves. I don’t know if Loveless could blaze this brightly without mindfully stoking her development and maturation for a number of years; this song “burns like a brand” because she is ready to feed the flame and let the performance almost consume her. The song smolders then bursts into flames. I agree whole-heartedly it is a masterpiece. I also agree Loveless emerges as the leader of the pack for female singers with this song.

    I am getting all misty thinking back when you could expect to hear Carpenter, Tillis, Yearwood, and Loveless in heavy rotation on mainstream radio.

    3
    • That’s really how it used to be, not only in country music but in all forms of American music in general: artists being allowed the time to develop and grow. This was true for one of Patty’s greatest heroes, Linda Ronstadt, who took eight years of development and artistic growth, from 1967 to 1975, before she became a true star. Nowadays, one is lucky if they can manage superstardom in eight months, because so many record label head honchos, and, sadly, too much of the audience as well, tend to have such short spans of attention these days.

      2
      • Most of the nineties women had some work in the eighties under their belts before they broke through big. Loveless is an interesting case because she was successful fairly quickly, scoring two top ten songs off of her second album and five big hits from her third. She was in the Female Vocalist race at the turn of the decade and even won at the Music City News Awards.

        Her Epic career was something of a rebirth, and she managed to work her way back into the Female Vocalist race by 1995. Even though Emory Gordy Jr. was producing her again by the time of her last MCA album, there is such a stunning jump in the quality of her voice on her first Epic record that I wonder how much her vocal surgery between projects/labels had to do with her stronger vocals.

        1
  3. I absolutely love everything about this song! It’s brilliantly performed, written, and produced, and for me, it’s still one of those drop whatever your doing and just listen kind of songs. From beginning to end, you’re captivated by Patty’s performance, the beautiful, haunting melody, and the compelling story of the narrator and her old flame. I still get chills during her emotional delivery on the bridge, and when she sings “I still carry a flame for you” in the final chorus. The less is more, acoustic guitar driven production choice compliments the song perfectly, and I especially love the haunting dobro licks. In many ways, this reminds me of the kind of quality record that you expected to hear regularly in the early 90’s. For me, this is a fine example of what the best of country music is all about, and it’s just one of the many examples of why Patty Loveless has always been one of my favorite artists. Oh, and this is probably my favorite Tony Arata song, too.

    Sadly, this masterpiece’s chart run occurred just before I got back into listening to country radio (the next Loveless gem coming up was the one climbing the charts when I finally got back to it), and it didn’t seem to get much recurrent airplay for us after that. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of the When The Fallen Angels Fly album in early 2003 that I fell in love with this song, and I pretty much made up for lost time ever since with it quickly becoming one of my top favorite Patty Loveless songs that I can listen to over and over. Both this and “The Song Remembers When” are just two of the reasons why Patty and Trisha were about neck in neck with me around the early 00’s as my top favorite female artists (and of course, they still are today). :)

    Really looking forward to the next Loveless entry, as well!

    2

Comments are closed.