Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Eddie Rabbitt, “I Wanna Dance With You”

“I Wanna Dance With You”

Eddie Rabbitt

Written by Eddie Rabbitt and Billy Joe Walker Jr. 


#1 (1 week)

April 16, 1988

I should save this line for an Earl Thomas Conley post, but it’s just so appropriate here that I can’t resist:

“How do I tell him that good ain’t good enough?”

It’s not so much that the Urban Cowboy era artists from earlier in the decade were lesser artists than the New Traditionalists. It’s more about when their artistry peaked.  The new wave of artists sounding so fresh and vital would eventually get stale too. The problem with this Rabbitt hit is that it very much isn’t peak Eddie Rabbitt, and he needed better than this to stay in the game for the long haul.

Because this is fine. But that’s all it is. A decent midtempo love song about hitting the dance floor that lacks the earworm quality of his earlier and bigger hits. The label had enough influence to get it to No. 1 in Billboard, but it topped out at #3 on Radio & Records, which is likely more reflective of its overall impact.

“I Wanna Dance With You” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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No YouTube clip available – KJC


  1. I immediately want to compare this song to the John Prine-penned George Strait recording of a very similar title. That latter song is all joyful expectation and optimistic fantasy about dancing. That song is emotionally right on cue, whereas, this Rabbitt hit misses its mark.

    Like a well constructed fire, all the tinder, kindling, and wood are in place lyrically for this song to burn, but Rabbitt’s vocals and the production fail to spark it.

    Rabbits’ vocal sounds uncertain when he should cut loose, and the production sounds restrained when it should burn. The chorus, in particular, is when the fire should catch and roar out-of-control, but it just fizzles and smolders.

    This song is a cold hotdog on a camping trip in the rain.

  2. My take on Eddie Rabbitt is that he had one great song (“Driving My Life Away”) and lucked out with some really good timing and marketing to sell his brand of Urban Cowboy country for an extended run. The rest of his catalog of hits are either outright clunker or offer mere modest rewards. I’d rate this song in the latter category, which comes off as a low-rent ripoff of “Bop” playing off the heavy 50s and 60s nostalgia so dominant in “old people music” of the time. It’s a pleasant enough listen but holds up about as well as cotton candy in a rain storm.

    Yet once again, I’m hesitant to accept the framing of “not good enough anymore” as a catch-all for every 80s-era hitmaker about to hit a wall with the generational shift. Even if “peak Eddie Rabbitt”, whatever that may have been, had returned to form in 1990, I highly doubt he’d have weathered the storm. Young people were buying music in record numbers in the CD era and had no interest in names associated with their parents. I was a teenager in the early-to-mid-90s and can’t imagine going to Sam Goody and buying a CD from a 50-year-old artist. I think it came down to that more than the quality (or lack thereof) coming from Nashville’s elder statesmen.

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