Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Janie Fricke, “Always Have, Always Will”

“Always Have, Always Will”

Janie Fricke

Written by Johnny Mears


#1 (1 week)

October 4, 1986

We’re entering a tumultuous era of country music, with perhaps the most aggressive changing of the guard that the genre ever experienced.

Janie Fricke’s Black & White project tells the story as well as anything from the era.  Picture it: a recent two time Female Vocalist of the Year who’d been a staple on the radio for several years decides it’s time for a new producer.  She teams up with Norro Wilson and records Black & White.  The lead single, “Always Have, Always Will,” is a remarkably effective torch ballad that showcases her range as a vocalist incredibly well.

Not only does radio play it so much that it goes to No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart, but fans respond so well to it that Black & White becomes the first No. 1 country album of her entire career.  Should be smooth sailing from here, right?

Well, it turned out that this number one single would be her final big radio hit.  The second single, “When a Woman Cries,” just barely became her final top twenty single.  A series of releases from three more studio albums from Columbia resulted in rapidly decreasing chart peaks.  Her 1987 album After Midnight was led off with her final top forty single, “Are You Satisfied?”  By the time she released her final Columbia album in 1989, Labor of Love, radio had moved on completely.

The bottom dropping out of her radio play coincided with a new wave of female artists like Kathy Mattea, Patty Loveless, and Holly Dunn, while women overall started being played less than their male counterparts.  Fricke was unfortunately sidelined, despite continuing to record excellent material from veteran songwriters like Willie Nelson and up and comers like Steve Earle.  On Labor of Love, she cut two songs co-written by Pam Tillis, including Pam’s future top ten hit, “One of Those Things.”

Fricke has remained an active recording artist and performer, and her independent albums are as worth seeking out as her live shows.  Given her pop-country bona fides, we strongly recommend her bluegrass reinterpretations of her hits.  Originally released as The Bluegrass Sessions in 2004, the album was reissued as Country Side of Bluegrass in 2012.  All of her independent recordings are worth a listen, but that collection is especially wonderful.

“Always Have, Always Will” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. This song is so enchantingly bright and bouncy. It just skips and floats along with its lovely loose and organic instrumentation. Fricke sounds utterly relaxed and wonderfully convincing.

    This is a brilliant performance and production.

    Speaking of young stars from the class of ’86, I hear this being sonically and spiritually in line with much of what Lyle Lovett would soon pursue with his large band.

    Fricke, like John Conlee, was as well positioned as any star from the decade to see her radio career through a meaningful second act with the emergence of the new traditionalists, and come out artistically intact on the other side. She had the chops to still shine and be a beacon and inspiration for the next generation of lady singers.

    I just finished reading Larry McMurty’s debut novel, “Horseman, Pass By.” In it, an old Texan cattle rancher is forced to kill his entire herd because of a hoof and mouth disease having killed one of his cows on his land. A trench is dug into which all the potentially infected cattle are driven, then shot and buried.

    Nashville didn’t go so far as to shoot their oldest stars, but imagine the conversations and sounds at the bottom of the cliff these classic ’80s’ artists where intentionally driven over to nominally protect the health and viability of the country music industry.

  2. I have always felt that this song was the best one Janie Fricke ever released, not only that but this was her best album, one that was aimed at adults. She always had an expressive and very good voice, but a lot of her material was slight; some of it I’ve even classified as lovey-dovey drivel. Her follow up album, Saddle The Wind, was also a step up from the albums that preceded Black & White. Unfortunately, radio did not seem too enamored of it and she faded from airplay.

  3. I feel like Janie had the Trifecta against her leading into 1987. There was no way she was having another hit even though her next 3 albums were exelent with the best vocals of her carreer. That trifecta was; turning 40, being a woman, and being an artist from the pop country era. I love her albums from Somebody Else’s Fire to Labor of Love the best but radio was ready for the next big young thing and she couldn’t overcome the obstacles.

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