“What’s Forever For”
Michael Martin Murphey
Written by Rafe Van Hoy
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
September 17, 1982
#1 (1 week)
September 25, 1982
Michael Martin Murphey already had a decade of recording success under his belt when he pursued mainstream country radio in 1982. He’d started out as a songwriter in southern California, but soon moved to the burgeoning Austin, Texas music scene, where he was a pioneer in what came to be known as Outlaw Country.
He earned some pop success in the seventies, most significantly with his hits “Wildfire” and “Carolina in the Pines.” He made a pivot to country with his self-titled 1982 album, and right out of the gate, he scored a No. 1 hit with a cover of an England Dan & John Ford Coley album track that Anne Murray and T.G. Sheppard had also taken a stab at by the time Murphey released it as a single.
“What’s Forever For” is a tender ballad about the rising trend of divorce, and it makes for an interesting counterpoint to the sardonic wit of the Jerry Reed divorce hit that preceded it at the top.
It’s certainly a classic single, but is it actually a great record? Or was it just well-timed, expressing a feeling that addressed a major societal shift of the era?
To my ears, it’s the latter. This style of singing and production has retroactively been given the catch all category “Yacht Rock,” which is a nice way of saying “wimpy ballads.” Everything about “What’s Forever For” is saccharine, and it’s essentially a blueprint for where contemporary Christian music was about to go, borrowing elements from pop and rock while stripping out all of the tension and complexity of the human experience.
Divorce is bad. I’m good. Why is the world changing so much around me? What isn’t everyone else as fundamentally good as me?
Well, Michael, sometimes people get married just because they don’t want to learn how to cook.
“What’s Forever For” gets a C.