Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: David Frizzell & Shelly West, “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma”

“You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma”

David Frizzell & Shelly West

Written by Larry Collins and Sandy Pinkard; Felice and Boudleaux Bryant


#1 (1 week)

April 11, 1981

It’s okay, folks. We’re going to get through this.

Clint Eastwood’s gotten himself involved in country music again, with this hit collaboration originally appearing on the soundtrack for Any Which Way You Can.  It was a big career moment for both David Frizzell and Shelly West.  Frizzell had struggled to get traction with his seventies singles, and this was West’s first appearance on any chart.  Both of them had a solo No. 1 single after this, so we’ll delve into their biographies then, but they are both relatives of famous country stars.

I don’t buy into the nepo baby nonsense because Pam Tillis and Rosanne Cash exist, but I suppose if one wanted some ammunition, they could use this record.  Both singers sound terrible here. This record isn’t representative of their best work as a duo, which improved over time as they grew in confidence and experience.

But “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” really does sound like the product of country music nepotism, like Lefty’s brother and Dottie’s daughter needed work and they figured they’d just throw them on a Clint Eastwood soundtrack.  I mean, Clint is singing on it too, so they can’t sound that bad in comparison, right?

Anyway, the songwriters got sued because they ripped off “Rocky Top.”  I understand wanting compensation for what’s rightfully theirs, but God it stings to see Felice and Boudleaux Bryant attached to this disaster.

We won’t see this duo again in the feature, but they had a few more hits together.  Just consider this their “Achy Breaky Heart” moment and know that they got better, and that both of their solo No. 1 hits are worthy of their chart-topping status.

For comedic value, check out the rest of the soundtrack. Its album cover actually overstates the quality of the music on it.

“You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” gets a D.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: Hank Williams Jr., “Texas Women” |

Next: Mickey Gilley, “A Headache Tomorrow (or a Heartache Tonight)”

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  1. I came to this song later in life as I don’t remember it being played in the 90s while I was growing up. The reason I say this is that throws out the nostalgia factor for my love of this song. I love this song and have no problems with the vocals. I find the review a bit harsh, but we all have different taste in lyrics and vocals so I understand. I’d give it a solid B-

  2. I agree with most of your ratings but will have to disagree with this one. Not only do I love this song, i consider it to be an “A+” classic. One of the best duet songs of all time in the country genre. They do sound a bit “tired”, but that is how they should sound when you listen to the lyrics. They are exhausted in the attempt at a more exciting life and are missing each other.

  3. I do remember this being played a lot on our big country radio station in L.A. at the time, AM 570 KLAC. I guess, like The_trouble_with_the_truth, I find it much more tolerable than some–and it’s a hell of a lot better than even the “best” of the Bromeisters.

    But to quote Clint Eastwood in that film: “Right turn, Clyde” (LOL).

  4. This song was played to death on country and MOR/AC stations in Florida. Although not their best recording, it certainly has its charm. Solid B

  5. Kevin, I’m with you, man. Loved this song when it came out. I hadn’t heard it in decades. So a couple of years ago, one of my friends mentioned it. I decided to pull it up on YouTube and listen to it. It was definitely a ‘what was I thinking’ moment. It did not age well at all IMO.

  6. This is country theatre!

    I love this song for its conversational sincerity. I love the familiarity of the time worn country-city trope; it presents a clear sense of place.

    It’s a love song about a heartbroken cowboy. The bright and punchy production paired with the weary vocals creates a compelling sonic dynamic. The melodramatic intensity feels like it could have been lifted straight from a classic stage production.

    Both Frizzell and West sound like stage singers, which is not a slight.

    I think both singers are provided some excellent material to work with. I love Frizzell’s line, “Losing you left a pretty good cowboy/ with nothing to hold on to.” How can’t you see a rodeo rider equating his emotional fear with being thrown from a bucking animal, having lost his grip on the only thing keeping him safe ? It’s a cool way of saying losing her threw him.

    Or how about West singing, “All the cowboys down on the sunset strip/wishin’ they could be like you.” She knows the difference between a Coca-Cola cowboy and an Oklahoma Cowboy.

    I think the contrapuntal moment between him being on the John Deere Tractor and her having a calico cat and a two room flat on a street in west L.A. soars.

    Shady songwriting history aside, this performance works for me because it is so theatrical.

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