Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Restless Heart, “Why Does it Have to Be (Wrong or Right)”

“Why Does it Have to Be (Wrong or Right)”

Restless Heart

Written by Donny Lowery and Randy Sharp

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

July 31 – August 7, 1987


#1 (1 week)

August 22, 1987

Answer songs were long out of vogue by the late eighties, but how great is the timing that this followed “One Promise Too Late” to No. 1?

It might as well be their response to Reba McEntire’s hit, with them playing the role of the guy that she won’t leave her husband for, even though she wants to.  It’s easy to imagine this being his way of processing that, as this protagonist ponders why there have to be morals in the first place.

Okay, that’s unfair. He wants this love to blossom into something permanent, and he understands that doing so would be just as he questions in the chorus: “Why do we have to hurt one to love another?”

Fall in love with a married woman, and someone’s bound to get hurt.  Sadly for him, he’s the one getting hurt, as she is very much bound to love another.

This has always been one of my favorite early Restless Heart records, a band that becomes more compelling to me as they become much less compelling to country radio.  The harmonies sound great, and the perspective is fresh. It doesn’t reach the heights of their two big nineties hits – you know, the big country one and the big pop one – but it certainly foreshadows them.

“Why Does it Have to Be (Wrong or Right)” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I remember being smitten by the audaciously poppy sound of this single 3 1/2 decades ago when I first heard it on country radio. Perhaps it’s lost a bit of that 1987 shine for me after so many years of semiregular listens, but I still have a soft spot for the morally challenged lyric and the glossy harmonization. Nice catch on this song being the unintended response to Reba’s recent #1. Both would-be cheating songs touched upon narrator perspectives in unique and interesting ways.

    One of my favorite early concert memories was at my county fair when Restless Heart showed up in 1988 at the peak of their popularity. I saw them again at the Minnesota State Fair bandshell in 2005 where I was able to appreciate them with grown-up ears. Peter’s description of the group as “country music for people who hate country music” is fair, although in my case I really liked country music but, even as a young boy, had a soft spot for boundary-pushers coexisting with traditionalists. It was particularly odd timing for Restless Heart to hit their stride at the moment when pop-country was most radioactive. My favorite Restless Heart hits were still yet to come, but this was the first of their #1s that I really connected with.

    Grade: A-

  2. Always enjoyed this song. It’s one of my favorites from Restless Heart. My favorite single from them is up next. I recommend the “Wheels” album by them.

  3. Again, this song works as intended, but it doesn’t resonate with me.

    It is both wrong and right. The depth of the stacked harmonies are great. The bass line, punchy percussion, and dirty guitar solo drive the song along, I just apparently don’t what to go where Restless Heart is headed.

    Sounds like a me problem, no?

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