Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Anne Murray, “A Little Good News”

“A Little Good News”

Anne Murray

Written by Charlie Black, Rory Bourke, and Tommy Rocco

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

November 25, 1983


#1 (1 week)

December 3, 1983

“I told you not to turn around.”

Back in the seventies, there was a powerful environmental PSA that featured a Native American crying a single tear over how nature was being abused.

This was parodied by The Simpsons in the late nineties, after Homer had so utterly destroyed Springfield after being their waste commissioner that the town had to be moved a few miles down the road.  After crying a single tear over a piece of waste landing by the road, the Native American’s friend warns him not to turn around:

I thought about this when revisiting Anne Murray’s “A Little Good News,” which captures so perfectly how a torrent of negative news stories can damage the psyche.  This was in 1983, mind you, when news was limited to the newspaper, radio, and broadcast television.  If Murray was craving a little good news in 1983, I truly hope she’s staying away from cable news and social media today!

This was a big record for Murray that rewarded her releasing a song so atypically topical.  It brings out shades in her voice that she rarely utilized, as she gives a surprisingly gritty performance that expresses her anger and frustration at the negativity of the news cycle.

Forty years later, we could use a little good news more than ever, making this one of those rare topical songs that resonates beyond its specific time and place.  Here’s hoping that, great as this record is, it won’t always be so timely and relevant.  

“A Little Good News” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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Next: Janie Fricke, “Tell Me a Lie”

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  1. A song more relevant than ever! A true classic! With this song the cma’s couldn’t ignore Anne anymore giving her the album of the year and single of the year for the song. It’s a shame she never got the female vocalist but Reba came in hot in 84 or it would have been her year.

  2. I tear up every time I hear this song. It speaks for so many of us with a powerful message.

    No one has a voice like Murray. It’s as smooth as silk and flows beautifully. So glad she finally got noticed in the country music industry with those deserving awards.

  3. What a fantastic write-up for a fantastic (and sadly more relevant than ever) song! Thanks for introducing me to so many songs like this! And thanks for the Simpsons reference… that made me smile. I don’t often comment, but I just wanted to chime in that I’m still reading and listening along with every entry. I’m loving this deep dive into the decade that preceded when I started listening to country music. Discovering “new” songs like this is great. Thanks to Kevin for all your hard work!

  4. There’s a very telling line near the end of the song:

    :”How I’d like to hear the anchorman talk about a county fair
    And how we cleaned up the air
    How everybody learned to care.”

    When Anne sings about how “we sure could use a little good news today”, she is also implying that we can make that good news happened if we worked at it (IMHO).

    • …iris dement echoed anne murray earlier this year with the wonderfully positive note “working on a world”. obviously, the world is – again, and probably as always – at a critical point, but mankind is usually not half bad at finding solutions. a great solution, i find, has been found by the young mississippi country trio track45 when they decided to shed some new light on dolly’s “light of a clear blue morning” (1974). more upbeat would be a party before breakfast.


      there’s always a new dawn and a new generation to take the lead. at least, let’s hope so.

  5. I heard this song recently after not having heard it in years and just the utter relevance of today is almost scary in a way. Great song and great delivery by Anne Murray.

  6. As much as this classic song is a newsy observation of life in all its tragedy and sorrow, the call to action is empowering. We can choose where our gaze lingers on the news cycle. It endearingly echoes the sentiment of the children’s folk song reminding us to focus on the doughnut and not the hole. It speaks to the hope and capacity we have for better days on this world.

    I love how this song has been reintroduced to different generations.

    I remember BR549 covering it on their 2001 Lucky Dog album “This is BR549.”

    In 2007, Anne Murray recorded this song with the Indigo Girls on her Phil Ramone produced duets album.

    In 1983, Murray’s album was the first by a female to to win Country Music Association Album of the Year Honours. The single also earned her a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a female.

    Just when I am worrying the horrible music of the ’80s for country music has finally arrived at my doorstep, a song like this comes along.

    • I’m not sure if you can evaluate a musical decade fairly by just its No. 1 hits, but since that’s the metric of this series, I don’t see how anyone could fairly make the case that the first half of the eighties were some nadir for the genre that needed the new traditionalists to save it.

      The entire construct of “saving country music” is gatekeeping BS anyway. I’m starting to suspect that the big anti-crossover movements of the late eighties/early nineties and of the early 2000s were really just about making sure that all the money stayed in Nashville. These days, I’m pretty confident that the Chicks wouldn’t have been banned from country radio if they were still under the Sony Nashville umbrella at the time.

      • I think every decade has hits that would be considered either high or low, and that includes country music’s 1980’s period with its frequent pop/country crossovers. We’ve already seen some of each so far in this series, and we’re going to see more–hopefully, of course, more of the high-quality stuff.

        As to whether the anti-crossover movements that followed were a way of keeping the country music money inside Nashville city limits–I don’t doubt it. And the sad thing about it is that, in so many ways, country music is, even in the eyes of a lot of fans that I’ve talked to, no longer about an actual way of life and much more of a cold-blooded business.

  7. …for the record: there was – as most of the time – a lot of great country music between 1980 and 1985 – if one cared to listen with an open mind. and as this feature here suggests too, by the way. the negative “urban cowboy” narrative is very hard to uphold, if you are willing to dig a little deeper than just taking for granted what too many commentators are regularly and superficially repeating untill this day. just check out what willie nelson released in that period – great music. if you then go on to waylon, hank jr., rosanne cash, emmylou harris, don williams, george jones, merle, ricky skaggs, young george strait, young reba mcentire, alabama etc. – it won’t stop to sound really good.

    1983 was a year of big tensions between the west and the east. nato decided to deploy and station nuclear mid-range missiles in europe/germany in answer to sowjet “ss-20” missiles of the same class, which had been moved to more forward positions in western russia since 1979. in europe the nato-manoeuvre “able archer”, in which a nuclear war situation was simulated/trained led to increased tensions and dangerous nervousness in moscow and the whole warsaw pact in late 1983. it was another hot period in the cold war and the news that year had been mostly worrisome overall. then again, isn’t that the nature of the beast?

    anne murray’s song highlights ordinary peoples’ feelings that year in a true and timely fashion, supporting my point that country music of the early/mid 80s was not half as bad as it is still quite unfoundedly repeated by some too narrow minded and hopelessly reactionary circles.

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