Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Ricky Van Shelton, “Somebody Lied”

“Somebody Lied”

Ricky Van Shelton

Written by Joe Chambers and Larry Jenkins


#1 (1 week)

December 5, 1987

Our third new star in a row is Ricky Van Shelton, a phenomenal single who’d be the CMA Male Vocalist in less than two years.

Shelton hailed from Virginia, and like many country singers of his generation, began singing gospel in the church while growing up. As a teenager, he discovered country music. He sang in his brother’s band and did local gigs after high school. When his future wife got a job offer in Nashville, he moved there with her.

He did club dates for a short period before recording a demo that caught the attention of CBS Records.  They quickly signed him and released his debut album, Wild-Eyed Dream. The title track went top thirty, and then “Crime of Passion” went top ten. His third single, “Somebody Lied,” was the first of many No. 1 hits.

It also happens to be my favorite Ricky Van Shelton record. I think he’s a criminally underrated vocalist who can stand toe to toe with Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam, and “Somebody Lied” showcases how fully developed his gift already was.  I love the ease with which he slips between spoken word and pure country wailing, with that deep baritone revealing the agony that he insists that he isn’t feeling: “I got over you the day you left. Could it be somebody lied?”

Shelton has multiple classic singles on the way that we’ll cover before the decade is through. But this one might be the best.

“Somebody Lied” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Fully agree. This is a killer song, and RVS sings the HELL out of it. Great, great stuff.

    And yes, I think it’s his best single, no question about it.

  2. Those of us that followed the 90s section of this feature are no stranger to RVS’s talents, but what a wonderful reminder of how excellent of a singer he is. Love this record and agree it’s probably his finest single.

  3. Another New Traditionalist-era legend who I was lucky enough to see in concert at my county fair in their prime, Ricky Van Shelton was always a powerhouse vocalist and he always seemed to find material that suited it perfectly. For sentimental reasons, his previous single “Crime of Passion” will always be my favorite as I jammed to it as a boy. It remains a guilty pleasure with its unlikely lyrical hybrid of Vicki Lawrence and Toni Basil. But without question, this follow-up is a better showcase for his vocals.

    I’m surprised Kevin gives it such high marks as it employs the same lyrical trick that he ribbed Alan Jackson for in “Wanted”. It works for me here just as it did in AJ’s song and Van Shelton’s vocal brings the lyrics to life better than pretty much else I could imagine trying to perform it.

    Grade: B+

  4. 100 % Fact that this deserves an A. Ricky was a phenomenal singer who unjustly stopped getting radio play after his greatest hits package despite still putting out excellent material. He made everything sound sound like a classic song. I love this song.

  5. I liked RVS a lot and regret that he changed directions after radio gave up on his records. He was one of the three or four top vocalists in the genre while he was active

  6. I associate this song playing on CMT on an unwatched tv in the background of the home of a close friend’s aunt.

    I was tagging along with his family for a pop-in weekend visit for some occasion, or perhaps, none at all. I can’t recall. It’s the upper mid-west

    I will never forget, however, when we stepped into the house, loud with talking and laughter and a dog barking over the noise. My eyes immediately landed on Ricky Van Shelton’s video playing on the tv. My curiosity cut through the chaotic haze of conversation and cigarette smoke. I was almost frantic with excitement trying to get as close to the living room console tv as possible to listen to what no one else was paying any attention to.

    I had heard the song only a time or two before on the radio and I was obsessed with his voice, the recitation, and the narrative.

    We didn’t have cable tv in my own home so being able to watch CMT was a novelty and special treat for me.

    The song is an absolute classic through and through for me.

    I always remember my own Aunt Marilyn describing Ricky Van Shelton as being another Marty Robbins, with whom she was obsessed.

    This song hit me hard and I was a huge Ricky Van Shelton fan from there on out.

    It is such a blast to remember how so many of the artists and songs from this era landed.

    It was a magical and special time for a young country music fan, just constantly Christmas.

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