Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Barbara Mandrell, “Years”


Barbara Mandrell

Written by Kyle Fleming and Dennis Morgan

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 15, 1980


#1 (1 week)

February 23, 1980

Barbara Mandrell was named the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in the fall of 1979, which coincided with her rising popularity at radio.  She followed that win with the strongest single of her career.

“Years” is a heartbreaking ballad about running into an old flame and realizing the days and weeks you’ve pined for them to come home have turned into years.  The second verse is especially sad, as we learn she still leaves the light on for someone who is quite clearly never coming back.  It inspires a surprisingly country vocal from Mandrell, who didn’t sound this vulnerable and open on any of her other big radio hits.

Yes, I’d love to strip away a layer or two of production gloss, but that’s true about most country records from this time period.  It’s still one of the best records of the year, and easily the high point of Mandrell’s run of hits.  The next time we see her, it will be with her signature hit.

“Years” gets an A. 


Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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Next: Waylon Jennings, “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”


  1. This and Only a Lonely Heart Knows have always been my favorites from Barbara. Such sadness in a beautiful song!

  2. It is too easy to forget that Barbara Mandrell was an important and essential role-model for later female country artists. Everything Reba accomplished in the 90’s, Mandrell did first in the 80’s.

    Mandrell’s stage shows and diverse professionalism were special. She was a multi-instrumentalist (bass guitar, banjo, guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, dobro, saxophone, and accordion!). “Music City News” awarded her “Musician of the Year” “Best Comedy Act,” and “Best TV Series. Both the ACM and CMA named her ” Entertainer of the Year” in 1980. She and her two sisters hosted the TV show “Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters.”

    All of this to say, Mandrell mattered. She is often dismissed as “just” an “80’s country-pop star.

    It took me many years to appreciate her significance to country music, as well as the quality of much of her material, such as this hit.

  3. My parents were always Barbara Mandrell fans, so I’ll always have a soft spot for her and her music, even though like Peter, it took me a little while to fully appreciate her and what she brought to the genre. Even in more recent years, my parents would always recall watching the show “Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters” whenever the subject of her came up. Mandrell was even my very first concert experience when my step dad and I saw her at Kings Dominion in Virginia in the summer of 1992 when I was seven. Unfortunately, I was still too young and immature to truly appreciate it. I do remember both of us being impressed by how quickly she changed outfits in between songs, as well as me recognizing some of the songs she sang from the tapes/records of hers we had at home. Looking back, it’s pretty neat knowing that we got to see a former Entertainer of The Year not too long before she decided to call it quits about five years later.

    Mom had actually just told me a year or so ago that this is one of her most favorite songs by Mandrell, which made me check it out again after not having heard it in a while. I definitely have to agree that this is one of the most beautiful and emotional singles of her career. I really enjoy her vocal performance here, along with the crying steel guitar heard throughout. The backup vocals in the choruses certainly reflect the time it came out, but for me, that’s part of its charm.

    Also when going through Mom’s record collection fairly recently, I rediscovered that she sure enough has the Just For The Record album (which this was a single off of), and I instantly remembered that it was one of the many records in that collection that my step dad and I recorded on to a blank cassette tape when I was six. :) I also really enjoy “Fooled By A Feeling” from that album, along with many of the album cuts.

    Another one of Barbara’s albums in her collection, Barbara Mandrell Live, also holds special childhood memories for me, which I’m guessing we’ll be getting to in the next entry for her.

  4. If patsy had lived she would have been country musics first true superstar and opened country music to a much wider audience. Then I believe Barbara would have been the child star she deserved to be. Better late than never. It took another generation for Dolly Parton to claim that title. Then she opened doors for younger singers like Tanya tucker and Leann rimes

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