Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: The Judds, “Have Mercy”

“Have Mercy”

The Judds

Written by Paul Kennerley


#1 (2 weeks)

December 28, 1985 – January 4, 1986

How strong were the singles from the second full-length Judds album?

So strong that the irresistible title track of Rockin’ With the Rhythm wouldn’t hit the radio until two other bona fide classics had gone to No. 1.

As someone who wouldn’t even own a Judds album until Wynonna’ first two solo albums were already in my collection, I can’t even imagine what it was like to have this level of quality music coming out in real time.  The Judds had such killer harmonies and such top drawer material that I wonder how many people back then realized that they were hearing one of the greatest vocalists of all time come into her own on their early albums.

Wynonna’s confidence as a singer was already blossoming on Why Not Me. On “Have Mercy,” she’s fully arrived.  As good as the harmonies are here, it’s Wynonna’s wails and growls and casual asides that make this record pop.  She’s at turns hurt, indignant, angry, heartbroken, and even darkly amused, slipping in an eye-rolling giggle as the cashier tells her, “You ain’t got no money cause you’re overdrawn. Your man took it all and he’s a-done gone.”

“Have Mercy” is also a predictor of how Wynonna would eventually claim her place among the independent and self-assured female artists of the nineties.  Working with a song that could’ve easily spilled over into “victim queen” territory, she strengthens the resolve of the protagonist through the sheer will of her performance.  Even after this woman has endured a near drowning at the bus stop and the theft of her savings, you can’t help but think that his louse is going to be the one begging for mercy once she gets his hands on him.

“Have Mercy” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Wynonna deserves every accolade for her stunning performance here, but she is certainly provided some wonderful lyrical details to dig into by Paul Kennerley.

    From the country artists heard playing in the background of a phone call to the colour of the lipstick on her man’s collar while doing laundry to the exchange between the narrator and a bank teller, this song feels lived in, relatable, and real.

    In 1985, this song hovered above its radio competition as something special. As we have seen, at least at the top of the charts, some stone cold country classics were on the airwaves yet.

    Just so damn fun and spirited.

  2. When I got the Judds Greatest hits CD this song quickly became a favorite. Loved the guitar riffs and the fun and sassy vocals. One of many favorites off that CD.

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