Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Merle Haggard, “Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star”

“Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star”

Merle Haggard

Written by Merle Haggard and Freddy Powers


#1 (1 week)

February 20, 1988

Merle Haggard’s final Billboard No. 1 hit is a fifties pastiche reminiscent of Ronnie Milsap’s recent work at the time.

That approach combined with a nursery rhyme title may sound like a recipe for disaster for Merle Haggard, but the contrast between his pure country vocal performance and the song’s content make it more interesting of a record than expected.

The New Orleans brass instrumentation that surfaces toward the end are the cherry on top the sundae, giving some additional distinctiveness as the song fades out.

It’s a bit lightweight for a Haggard tune, as charming as it is. Thankfully, this isn’t the last time we’ll see Haggard, as he has a Radio & Records-only No. 1 on deck for 1989.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I didn[t realize that Merle was still putting out #1s by the time 1988 came around. I certainly remember this song but thought it had come earlier than the late 80s. I agree that the concept and title are a bit clunky but also agree that this could just as easily have come from the Ronnie Milsap discography from around this era. It certainly isn{t gonna rate at the top of the Merle songbook but between the jazzy musicianship and the charm Merle brings to the vocal performance, this one manages to work.

    Grade B

  2. Maybe Merle was channeling his inner Hank Thompson who had a series of novelty hits built around kids’ nursery thymes.

    This hit doesn’t stack up terribly well with Haggard’s harder-hitting hits from earlier in the decade; it is breezy and lightweight and oddly at odds with the rest of the the “Chill Factor” album which which is a quiet stunner of music for aging adults.

    Haggard co-produced the album and co-wrote nine of the eleven cut. Stalwarts Hank Cochran and Sanger D. Shafer penned the other two songs.

    The title track is haunted. “Man From Another Time” is brilliant.

    “Thirty Again” has the great couplet, “They say life starts at fifty/We have been lied to my friend.”

    As the curtain was about to come down upon his career, Haggard dropped this brilliant collection of songs to let the young guns swarming Nashville-town know that life may be disappointing and difficult but it is far from meaningless.

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