Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: The Judds, “Love is Alive”

“Love is Alive”

The Judds

Written by Kent Robbins

Radio & Records

#1 (3 weeks)

July 26 – August 9, 1985


#1 (1 week)

August 31, 1985

When I’m trying to decide what the best Judds No. 1 single is, it usually comes down to the two that were written by Kent Robbins.

We won’t get to “Young Love (Strong Love)” until late in the decade, but “Love is Alive” came early on, becoming the Judds’ third chart-topper from their debut LP, Why Not Me, and their fourth consecutive No. 1 overall.

Everything about this record is flawless.  The subtle guitar work and Naomi’s understated harmony vocal contribute to making this a classic record, but the magic comes from pairing a tender and believable lyric with a phenomenal vocal performance from Wynonna Judd.

It boggles the mind that she was barely twenty years old when she recorded “Love is Alive.”  She sings it with the sincerity of a woman who has found true love, with an undercurrent of pain that suggests she’s experienced heartbreak along the way.  As she cycles through various definitions of love, she never sings the word the same way twice. 

Her use of her lower register in the chorus is even more powerful, intertwining deep gratitude with the weariness of a long journey as she proclaims that “love is alive and it’s made a happy woman out of me.”

Twenty years old, my friends, and she’d already punched her ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Grade: A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, “Real Love” |

Next: Earl Thomas Conley, “Love Don’t Care (Whose Heart it Breaks)”

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  1. It was a battle between the Judds and Ricky Skaggs for which artist best paved the way for the more celebrated new traditionalists who would follow by laying down solid gold singles as a virtual yellow brick road leading country music home.

    It is not hyperbole when Kevin describes this single as flawless.

  2. …in the context of “saving country music” in the 80s, which is largely attributed to ricky skaggs, george strait and randy travis, usually, i can’t help but feeling that the judds’ contribution to that imaginary – as well as quite unnecessary – task might even have been greater than that of the usual suspects. for my 2022/23 article series on the “urban cowboy” years (“the frowned upon era”) i even turned to robert k. oermann – nashville’s resident country music historian – for more information, since he knew naomi judd quite well at the time. however, i never got any reaction on my emails.

    does anybody of the slightly more senior readers of cu remember vividly enough those years after the the judds breaking through to tell, whether they were/seemed to be a more prominent feature on a nationwide scale (tv-programms, late night shows, tours etc.) than those three male protagonists – or perhaps not?

    looking at their chart performance, they were at least on par, if not ahead between 1984 and 1987. unfortunately, i did not find any reliable sales figures from that time. i seriously should love to have some more evidence/eyewitness confirmation on the theory that the judds might have been (far) more influential on spreading the neotraditional sound most successfully and prominently across the united states than their commonly mentioned male counterparts. as well as evidence that they might not have been, of course. so far, most of the credit always seems to go rather unchallenged to the men.

    • The Judds were definitely among the leaders of the new traditionalist movement and were largely credited as such at the time. I think that they were a little less prominent in the conversation during the nineties because Wynonna’s meteoric successful solo work wasn’t in the same tradition. The Hall of Fame induction and recent tour helped remind anyone who had forgotten about their impact, I think.

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