Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Merle Haggard with Janie Fricke, “A Place to Fall Apart”

“A Place to Fall Apart”

Merle Haggard with Janie Fricke

Written by Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Freddy Powers


#1 (1 week)

February 2, 1985

“A Place to Fall Apart” is a dark and depressing Merle Haggard ballad that is lifted up by a sweet harmony vocal by Janie Fricke.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that a song written by Haggard with an assist by Willie Nelson is so despondent, and it doesn’t waste any time getting to rock bottom:

I’ll probably never see you eye to eye againThis letter’s meant to be my last farewellBut you need to under-stand I’m nearly crazyYou need to know my life has gone to hell

It’s all very bleak, so when Fricke shows up with her harmony vocal, she pulls Haggard back from the brink, as if a friend has shown up to validate his feelings and provide some emotional support. I’m usually not a fan of giving titular artist credits to stars who just do a harmony vocal, but she’s so essential here that the credit is very deserved.

Haggard will complete a streak of five consecutive No. 1 singles with the final single from It’s All in the Game, which we’ll get to a little later in 1985.

“A Place to Fall Apart” gets a B+

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: Mel McDaniel, “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On”|

Next: Gary Morris, “Baby Bye Bye”

Open in Spotify


  1. I always felt that history says that Merle was at his peak in the 60’s and 70’s and that his 80’s work while still great didn’t match his peak (A VERY HIGH BAR TO CLEAR). I always loved his material from this period and said the Merle never stopped being great. I never heard a bad Merle Haggard record they were all good. He’s got in my opinion the greatest discography in country music. Around this time he got more “mellow” and ballad oriented but to me it’s just hearing a master at work. I loved that his voice got even better with a deeper tone. Janie harmony vocal’s really add so much to this song. But her harmony work had been doing that for over a decade at this point.

  2. I feel like Janie has been such a big part of singing harmony on country records in the 70s and 80s that between that and her solo work she really deserves to be in The Country Music Hall of Fame one day. You never hear her mentioned on the list but the shear number of records she has sang backup on with her massive run of hits to me make her a shoe in as far as I’m concerned. What do yall think? Also find it interesting that she sings backup on Natural High with Merele but didn’t get credit on that single even though once again she elevates it!

    • I agree. Harmony vocalists already don’t get nearly enough credit. That Fricke had an entire solo career as well that was quite successful should make her a shoo-in, but there’s so much bottlenecking going on. I’m still stunned that Patty Loveless got in so quickly. I thought she’d be waiting for another decade, even though she should’ve been in a decade ago.

  3. As someone who doesn’t mind the bottleneck all that much (despite realizing many artists and myself won’t get to see themselves inducted), I think Janie is Hall Bound, but will have a while to wait.

    They’ve been better at letting women in recently, but there’s about 6 names in the veteran category I see as being ahead of her. Add that some still eligible for the modern will fall into the veteran and she’s going to have a wait.

  4. This scary single is savagely raw.

    The confessional lyrics make it almost uncomfortable to listen, to to the point of feeling wrong listening to a nearly crazy man sing about his decent into hell in painfully honest detail.

    Then Fricke softly joins the sympathetic and soothing sounds of the saxophone and fiddle to provide some respite from the overwhelming hurt.

    She provides the tender hiding place that allows the narrator to fall apart.

    Without her, this song would spiral into the darkest depths of a broken heart, “somewhere between I love you and what you are feeling now.”

    This brilliant song has always given me chills.

    It was news to me me that Willie Nelson co-wrote it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.