Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Reba McEntire, “Somebody Should Leave”

“Somebody Should Leave”

Reba McEntire

Written by Harlan Howard and Chick Rains

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

April 19 – April 26, 1985


#1 (1 week)

May 11, 1985

“How Blue” demonstrated that McEntire was a vocalist to be contended with. With “Somebody Should Leave,” demonstrates her ability to give voice to a woman’s internal anguish.

I won’t mince words here. “Somebody Should Leave” is as good an impending divorce ballad as has ever been written, and McEntire sings it better than anyone else could’ve done.  The song’s most gut-wrenching line – “You need the kids, and they need me” – is delivered with multiple layers of heartbreak.  She’s sad for what her husband will lose, and she’s sad for how her kids will suffer without him, but she also knows that this story can only end one way; the “babies down the hall” will be staying with her.

The song is nearly all internal monologue, and we feel her pain as she fakes reading a book to pass the time (“I’m so sad I don’t know what I’ve just read”) and later, when the couple exchanges their only words of the evening (“We say ‘good night,’ and turn and face the wall.  We lay here in the darkness, and the tears start to fall.”)  We’re being let into the most intimate moments of a marriage while it’s on the verge of collapse.

It’s an extraordinary record where everything comes together as if preordained by fate: the perfect song for the perfect singer at the perfect time.  McEntire’s road to the Hall of Fame begins here.

“Somebody Should Leave”  gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I love the story how Harlan played Reba 2 not so great songs to see if she would bite before he offered her this masterpiece! This was the first of many hits Reba would be able to hand pick to lead her to superstardom. Artist today should learn from the biggest stars of the past in not recording so much of their own material and instead pick some of the best songs written by the plethora of Nashville songwriters out there!

    • I think that’s had more to do with the drop in quality over the last 13 years than anything else, though I think the last couple of years have things moving back in the right direction.

      I understand the artists wanting a slice of the publishing because there is so little money in record sales now, but it has limited their artistic growth in so many cases.

      Luke Combs just released the best two singles of his career back to back, and he didn’t write either of them.

  2. Wonderful song. I often think Reba is overrated because I feel she is a great vocalist who never gave us great original songs. This one is an exception. Pure country greatness

  3. What about the brilliant production and instrumentation?

    The inescapable nervous inevitability of the piano intro followed by the cascading, staccato plucking of the guitar sounds like a person stuttering and spitting, fighting back tears, as they offer us access to their worst fears and deepest failures. Somebody bracing themselves to share something they can barely own up to themselves.

    The sound of the heaviest of sighs.

    This is one of those songs that is more an emotional experience than just a listen.

    Once we get into the song, the instruments soar and drop.

    Reba’s interpretation of Howard’s lyrics come as close as is possible to eavesdropping on a person’s inner life and thoughts.

    Except the consequences of that inner monologue will touch everyone in the family.

    Country music does not get any more honest and raw than this.

    It is superb. It is extraordinary. It is wonderful.

    It is contender for the greatest country music song of all time.

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