Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Sammy Kershaw, “Love of My Life”

“Love of My Life”

Sammy Kershaw

Written by Dan Hill and Keith Stegall

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 23, 1998

Sammy Kershaw earns his final No. 1 single to date.

The Road to No. 1

After going to No. 1 with “National Working Woman’s Holiday” in 1994, Sammy Kershaw scored three more hits from Feelin’ Good Train: the top five “Third Rate Romance,” the top thirty “Southbound,” and the top twenty “If You’re Gonna Walk, I’m Gonna Crawl.”  His hits collection followed, but its only single “Your Tattoo” missed the top forty.  He bounced back with his fourth major label album, Politics, Religion, and Her, which featured four hits: the top five “Meant to Be,” the top ten “Vidalia,” the top thirty title track, and the top thirty “Fit to Be Tied Down.”

Kershaw would return to platinum sales for the final time with his 1997 set, Labor of Love, powered by the No. 1 hit being featured today.

The No. 1

Songwriter Dan Hill was no stranger to tender ballads, scoring pop hits with “Sometimes When We Touch” and “Can’t We Try,” as well as a series of AC hits through the early nineties.

His lyricism was a great match for Sammy Kershaw, whose deep and expressive vocals keep “Love of My Life” from crossing that notorious line between sentimental and sappy.

He gives such a rich and layered performance here, elevating an already good song to a much higher level.  This one’s a slow burner that reveals more with each successive listen.  It’s a hell of a high for him to go out on.

The Road From No. 1

Labor of Love produced an additional handful of lower-charting hits:  the top thirty “Matches” and the top forty entries “Honky Tonk America” and “One Day Left to Live.”  Kershaw’s next release launched with a superstar duet with eventual wife Lorrie Morgan: “Maybe Not Tonight” became his last top twenty hit to date. The album of the same name also included the top forty hits “When You Love Someone” and “Me and Maxine,” his final hits of the nineties.

He’d visit the top forty two more times in the following decade: with the Lorrie Morgan duet “He Drinks Tequila” and the 2003 independent release, “I Want My Money Back.” Kershaw hasn’t had a chart entry since 2006, but he has continued to tour and record on his own and with his nineties contemporaries.

“Love of My Life” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. The duet version of this with Terri Clark is my go to. I’m was too young at the time to remember but was that version promoted to radio at all?

    • I never heard that duet version of the song until we went to California in the Summer of 1998! I heard it on one of the stations around Orange County, which had a lot of variety. It’s also the first time I heard the version of “When You Say Nothing At All” that combined both Keith Whitley’s and Alison Krauss’ versions.

  2. Really love this song but man “Matches” is one of my favorite Sammy Kershaw songs and really wish it did a lot better for him.

  3. This late 1997/early 1998 period truly seemed like a magical time for me with nearly every new release being a song I really loved. “Love Of My Life” was just one more song on the radio that I fell in love with during that time, and it’s actually one of the first ones I still think of when I think of this era. It’s also still one of my top favorite Sammy Kershaw songs, along with “Matches” and “Meant To Be.”

    This is simply one of the most beautiful songs that Kershaw’s ever recorded, and it’s also one of his best performances, imho. I’ve always considered this to be the beginning of his “crooner phase.” I love how deeper, richer, and smoother his voice had gotten by this time, and it’s highlighted even more by the song’s lovely lullaby like melody and Keith Stegall’s classy, top notch production. He really sounds like someone who’s genuinely thankful that he’s finally found the “love of his life.” I also love how he belts out the song’s incredibly beautiful chorus. And once again, it features some of the best steel guitar playing from Paul Franklin I’ve heard in a late 90’s country song. The steel solo is simply gorgeous, especially!

    Additionally, I’ve always been a sucker for tender love songs that are about the narrator being “saved” by love and a special someone entering his/her world, and “Love Of My Life” is still one of the best of those, imo. That, combined with how gorgeous it is sonically, has made this one of my personal favorites of the 90’s love ballads that I keep coming back to. It still gives me such a great, warm feeling when I hear it today, and the beautiful melody has still been known to get stuck in my head long after I’ve heard it!

    “Love Of My Life” is also one of the main songs that comes to mind whenever I think about when my parents and I used to go to Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA just about every Sunday throughout late 1997 and early 1998. I particularly remember this song being stuck in my head one evening in the mall when I was looking at the beautiful Christmas decorations they used to have on top of the big blue water fountains around the elevators in the mall’s middle section. It also makes me think of when I used to kill a lot of time in that mall’s Sears store playing Diddy Kong Racing in the little video game area they had around the kids clothes section. :) I just remember hearing it on several occasions during that time period, both when were on the way to and after going to Fair Oaks. Sigh…man, those were such great, fun times! :D

    I continued to associate “Love Of My Life” so much with Fair Oaks Mall that, of course, I included it on the late 90’s/early 00’s country playlist I’d always listen to whenever I came back to that mall. Even as recent as the mid-late 2010’s, it was still one of the songs that immediately came to mind whenever we were back there, especially during the colder months and the holidays. :) For me, the song was always a perfect fit for the mall’s classy and upscale feel and beautiful, unique architecture, as well.

    Unfortunately, this also seemingly became another late 90’s country song that never got as much recurrent airplay as it should’ve. Even on Sirius in 2004-2005, it never got played as much, but the tired recurrents, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” and “Third Rate Romance” were heard almost every day.

    I also ended up loving the next single, “Matches” just as much, and it was actually seeing the song’s video on GAC that made me love it even more. I remember one night when it came on the Weekly Country Countdown, I was raving to my dad about the song and telling him about the video and how the main character actually burned down the bar and got arrested in the end. When we heard it again shortly on another night, he told me “There’s your song!” just as it was starting. :) And yes, it’s another song that instantly reminds me of us going to Fair Oaks Mall. I echo Tyler that it really should’ve been a bigger hit! I remember being pretty disappointed that it stalled in the mid 20’s on the countdown.

    I personally think some of Sammy’s best work was when he brought Keith Stegall on board as his producer in the mid-late 90’s. He seemed to really help bring out the richness in Sammy’s vocals with his warm, lower key production style. 1997’s Labor of Love is one of my favorite albums of his, which I got for Christmas in 2001, because I loved “Love Of My Life” and “Matches” so much. Other favorites on it are “One Day Left To Live” (which also should’ve done a lot better), “Thank God You’re Gone,” “Honky Tonk America,” “Arms Length Away,” the Cajun flavored “Little Did I Know,” and “Roamin’ Love” (a rare cut Sammy wrote all by himself).

    I also love 1999’s Maybe Not Tonight, which saw Sammy go further into crooner mode, which was likely influenced by the success of “Love of My Life.” I actually consider that album to be similar to Ray Price’s move to a more sophisticated sound in the 70’s. I especially love the title cut and duet with Lorrie Morgan, which again, really should’ve done much better. I also really like “Me And Maxine,” which reminds me of 80’s Conway Twitty, and I remember hearing it quite often on the independent station near us around 1999 and 2000. Other favorites for me on that album are “How Much Does The World Weigh,” “How Can I Say No,” “I’ve Never Gone This Far Before,” “Without Strings,” “Look What I Did To Us,” and “Love Me, Loving You.” I even actually love his then critically panned cover of “More Than I Can Say.”

    • I really like the Ray Price comparison. Kershaw sounded so much like George Jones on his earlier records, but as his voice deepened and matured, I can hear that Price influence you’re talking about.

      • I especially always heard the Ray Price similarities on “When You Love Someone,” but it’s really all over the Maybe Not Tonight album, and I can hear it on “Love Of My Life,” as well.

        Aaron Tippin also made a similar switch to a more smooth sound in the late 90’s, but to me, his “new” voice has more similarities to John Conlee.

  4. Kershaw is just such an accomplished singer, whether he is channeling George Jones or Ray Price.

    I have also always thought “Maybe Not Tonight” was an emotionally devastating song song by two vocal dynamos that deserved to be a smash hit. The production is dramatic and big in the best of ways. The layered vocals sound so urgent, scared, and hungry. It is bombast done beautifully.

    Staying with “Love of My life,” the ballad has sincerity in spades. A devotional love song that doesn’t have to be qualified as a guilty pleasure.”

    Sammy Kershaw is an underappreciated gem from the nineties.

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