Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Janie Fricke, “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy”


“It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy”

Janie Fricke

Written by Mark Gray, Shawna Harrington-Burkhart, and Les Taylor


#1 (1 week)

November 27, 1982

Timing is everything.  

Last year, when I ranked every Pam Tillis recording, her 1983 cover of “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy’ was near the bottom.  Here’s what I wrote at the time:

It’s a good way to understand why Tillis didn’t quite fit in either the pop or country market at the time.   You can hear her pining for her Nashville roots on this track, but the material itself is too wimpy for Tillis to sing it credibly.

The woman in this song isn’t easy.  She’s just being walked all over and shouldering the blame and shame for what the man is doing wrong.

You can’t get much further away from the Pam Tillis ethos than that.

That take is solid on the Pam Tillis front, but this eighties feature has helped me to understand how unfair it is to Janie Fricke, who was laying the groundwork for the nineties material by Tillis and her contemporaries by beginning to deconstruct the country victim queen archetype.

Her vocal performance on “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy” is vulnerable, for sure, but there’s also a toughness to it shines through on the song’s most self-aware lines. She’s not walking away from this mess of a man yet, but she’s conscious of the injustice he’s inflicting upon her.  She’s trading pleasure tonight for a heartache tomorrow, and she’s doing so with clear eyes.

I still don’t think it fully delivers on the promise of its title, and it remains a bottom of the barrel Pam Tillis record. 

But it’s a pretty damn good Janie Fricke record, and helps to illustrate why she was the reigning female vocalist of the year when the song was No. 1.

“It’s Not Easy Bein’ Easy” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. …janie fricke and this hit are a match made in bed – sorry, heaven, of course. one is inclined of believing every word of this rather frank confession of hers. perhaps the queen of the “victim queens”, miss fricke.

  2. I’ve seen a live performance of this song from the period and it’s a lot better and pared back than the studio version

  3. I hear so much Bobbie Cryner in this performance!

    Another example of how nuanced, conflicted, and mature the best of country music was from this era. There are no easy answers from either the artist telling the story or for the listener emotionally responding to them. It all feels uncomfortably real, familiar, and messy.

    Reconciling emotional wants and physical needs is not always as easy as taking a Louisville Slugger to both headlights.

    I am loving rediscovering what a great vocalist Fricke was.

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