If you’re not watching Ken Burns’s PBS series, “Country Music,” you’re making a mistake: almost every reader who’s seen it, including those (like me) who aren’t huge fans of country, have found it mesmerizing. And you can see all the episodes free online.
When I was exercising this afternoon, and listening to my iPod Nano (a great accessory that’s no longer made), this song came on, and I realized how good it is. The words are simple but the tune is terrific, and they meld perfectly.
“Here You Come Again” (recorded by Parton in 1977) is not really a country song, though Parton is a country singer. It’s a pop song, with the only nod to country music being Parton’s voice and the line “Here you come again, lookin’ better than a body has a right to.” (The phrase “a body”, meaning “a person” is definitely Southern country argot.)
When I looked up the song on Wikipedia, I discovered that it was one of the few Dolly Parton hits not written by her: the writers were the famous duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who planned it as a “comeback song” for Brenda Lee. Lee rejected it, and the rest is history. As Wikipedia reports, “”Here You Come Again’ was the centerpiece of [Parton’s] now famous pop crossover move in the late 1970s.”
Mann and Weil were writers of pop songs, not country songs (see here for an astonishing list of their hits), and so we have violins instead of steel guitars. (Wikipedia says the recording does have steel guitar, inserted to but I can’t hear it on the original recording.:
[Parton’s] producer, Gary Klein, who had heard the song on B.J. Thomas’s recently released self-titled album, reported that Parton had begged him to add a steel guitar to avoid sounding too pop, and he called in Al Perkins to fill that role. “She wanted people to be able to hear the steel guitar, so if someone said it isn’t country, she could say it and prove it,” Klein told journalist Tom Roland. “She was so relieved. It was like her life sentence was reprieved.”)
Regardless, it’s a great performance, and rose to #3 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart. It’s my favorite song by Dolly Parton: