As a respite from today’s overdose of election talk, let’s take a distracting turn down Memory Lane. Thirty-six years ago today, a catchy and upbeat song by songstress Anne Murray hit Billboard’s Hot 100 list. The Canadian-born Murray had already succeeded with a 1970 top-10 international hit “Snowbird” as well as her 1974 country number one hit, “He Thinks I Still Care.” But when she released “You Needed Me” in the fall of 1978, the song quickly topped the Hot 100 and remained on the list for 26 weeks. Murray would go on to win a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance with her song.The world has undergone remarkable changes since 1978! Even when Murray originally sang this song, her sweet-sounding ballads were being challenged with songs by artists like Donna Summer and the Bee Gees. Country music was still dominated by musicians including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Beyond the music world, it was in 1978 the first baby born via in vitro fertilization was announced. Pope John Paul I headed the Roman Catholic Church for barely a month before he died. Nine hundred eighteen people died in Jonestown (Guyana) in a mass suicide.
What do you remember about that time? A mix of good and bad, happy times and sad, a time of tragedies and celebrations? Kind of like today, huh?
In those days, I had already traveled with two different music groups and set my performing energies behind me, preferring instead to direct those energies for raising my family. Still, I sang with local church music groups and occasionally filled in (on request) for solo and/or instrumental presentations. After “You Needed Me” was released, I purchased the sheet music. (Ha! Those were the days when music stores actually carried a selection of sheet music for the latest releases … anybody know a store with sheet music today?)
My vocal range is similar to Murray’s so this song was a good fit for my voice. A friend suggested the song’s words could easily be adapted to express a spiritual message, so I did what I always do … fit the music to a poem … but this would be one I could sing in church! (I know, what a surprise!) A couple of times while the song was still lingering on the charts, I was asked to perform my version during our local church services.
The rewritten lyrics were never great poetry and not especially strong theology either, but I present the lyrics here, giving a tip of my hat to the song’s original composer, my fellow Arkansan Randy Goodrum, and to the musical talent of Anne Murray who sang “You Needed Me” and advanced it to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 on this day in 1978.