Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Rosanne Cash, “Seven Year Ache”

“Seven Year Ache”

Rosanne Cash

Written by Rosanne Cash


#1 (1 week)

May 23, 1981

Rosanne Cash arrives, and she brings with her a lyrical sophistication unlike anything else on the radio in 1981.

Rosanne is the eldest daughter of Johnny Cash, and was born while her father was still based out of Memphis, recording sides for Sun Records.  She grew up wanting to be an actress, and pursued that passion at Vanderbilt University and a theatre institute in California.  A fortuitous connection with Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris led to her recording a demo, which caught the attention of a German record label.  Though she recorded an album with them, it was a terrible experience, with the positive outcome being a U.S. record deal with CBS in Nashville.

Her first album for CBS, Right or Wrong, produced two top twenty and and an additional top thirty hit.  The lead single and title track from her next album became her first of eleven No. 1 country singles, all during the eighties.

“Seven Year Ache” started as a long poem, and reflected Cash’s determination to make a great country street song like the ones she heard on Rickie Lee Jones albums.  The result is a strikingly cinematic record, aided by strings arranged by Emory Gordy Jr. but driven by Cash’s exceptional talent as a lyricist: “Don’t bother calling to say you’re leaving alone ’cause there’s a fool on every corner when you’re trying to get home.”

She’s not actually with him on his downtown jaunt, but her vivid imagination captures every dirty deed he’s probably going to do, even if he doesn’t know it himself yet, because the girls are going to fall for him just as hard as she did: “Boys say, ‘when is he gonna give us some room,’ the girls say, ‘God, I hope he comes back soon.'”

This is the first of three No. 1 singles from Seven Year Ache, and remains her biggest crossover hit, reaching the top thirty of the Hot 100.

“Seven Year Ache” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Someone I was discussing with called this song a “complicated love song” and I think that’s one of the best descriptions of it. I love the song, I love Rosanne – it’s my second favourite of her songs (first is “This Is The Way We Make A Broken Heart”) and I’ll be glad to see her again in this feature.

  2. I think this is one of the coolest sounding singles ever released to country radio. It’s has everything, (actually great synth, hand claps, drum and an awesome steel guitar solo) along with phenomenal lyrics and vocals. This is the peak of Country pop dine here.

  3. Such an impressive run of sterling songs that could be heard on both the AM and FM dials, on both country and pop stations. I certainly didn’t appreciate the sophistication and coolness of this song as a kid. It was too left-of-centre for me to process. I do remember all those elements Tyler mentioned sounding strange to my ears.

    Still, Like T.G. Sheppard’s songs, I knew every last word to this song and would gladly sing along. Many years later, I remember my ex-wife sharing that she associated this song with her mom’s radio station and always thought of it as a MOR/AC production. As such, she remembered thinking it was lame, only to rediscover it later in life and realize how much she actually oved it.

    I want to call attention again to the insane diversity of styles and sounds The Urban Cowboy era has captured to date.

  4. No idea if its true or not, but I’ve heard the synth-like intro is actually a steel guitar with an EBow. Nonetheless, what a cool sounding song that is no doubt a classic.

  5. A classic for sure! From that first note this song stands out and you know instantly what song it is! A great example of pop and country mixing perfectly!

  6. I think a lot of times it is easy to use the Nepotism term when it comes to Rosanne, because of just how prominent her father was, but being the offspring of someone as famous as that is, it seems to me, much more of a burden than a blessing. Thankfully she overcame that and carved out her own niche with this song, which became the big crossover hit it was (reaching #22 on the Hot 100) because a lot of pop and rock fans really got into it.

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