Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”

“To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”

Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson

Written by Hal David and Albert Hammond

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

April 20 – April 27, 1984


#1 (2 weeks)

May 12 – May 19, 1984

Two of the world’s most popular and distinctive vocalists came together for the unlikeliest of duets, and damn if they didn’t make it work.

Put aside any notion that this is some hybrid of country and Latin music, though.  Fact is, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” works so well for two reasons, and neither of them have anything to do with country or Latin music.

The first reason it works is that both Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson knew their way around a pop standard, and that’s the sonic presentation here.  This is for Willie fans who love Stardust, not Red Headed Stranger.  As for Iglesias, the only indication of his Latin roots is his elegant phrasing, and we’re most aware of this when the clunkiness of the English language requires him to alter his enunciation to make the melody work for him.  His most beautiful moments on this record come from when it’s the most difficult to understand what he’s saying.

The other reason this collaboration works so well is that both men are genuinely classy and radiate warmth and sincerity.  This is a tricky lyric that could’ve come off as unseemly in lesser hands: two men looking back on their sexual conquests that they’ve loved and then left behind, and implying a commitment to continue their roaming ways. But you can’t doubt for a single second that they really did love and appreciate each and every woman they’ve been with, and they really are happy that they’re now “someone else’s wives.”  Everybody wins!  

It’s all so gloriously the nineteen eighties, and I’m totally here for it. 

“To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. How insanely fun is that live performance from the CMA show? Julio’s and Willie’s mutual infatuation reminds me of young kids on Sesame Street when they’re were allowed to interact with the muppets unscripted.

    Julio’s wonderfully awkward pat of Willie’s stomach communicates so much adoration and admiration.

    Or that they were just high as kites.

    This song just shouldn’t work this well. Objectively, they sound pretty awful singing together but there is so much charisma and sincerity, so much palpable pure joy.

    Against all odds, this is an iconic duet that still soars today.

  2. Yes, what could have been the most awful duet idea ever conceived works because the two guys made it stick, making it one of the biggest hits of 1984, pop, country, or otherwise.

    And just for everyone’s store of knowledge: Hal David, one of the co-writers, was known for his work with Burt Bacharach on many 1960’s and 1970’s pop hits (e.g. “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”); and the other writer, Albert Hammond, had a huge pop hit of his own in late 1972 with “It Never Rains In Southern California”.

  3. …most people in europe were wondering at the time, who that grandpa next to julio iglesias was when this became a huge hit. and most folks in the us probably thought, who that poser next to willie nelson was. i remember that this cooperation felt very odd at first, but it worked rather beautifully. just don’t ask me why. the intrinsic simple beauty of the song? iglesias’ terrific vocals and charisma that worked almost everywhere? the country flavour willie brought to the table?

  4. This song – and the head-scratching consensus on its greatness – make me think of one of my favorite quotes:

    “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

    It’s all so subjective and personal to our own experiences that we can’t put into words why we’re drawn to certain things. This is such a strange duet pairing and a weird song really, but damned if it doesn’t work.

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