He is arguably the greatest country music singer of all time. He is certainly the most consistent. As The New Yorker reported, “Since 1981, when he made his début, he has placed eighty-six singles on Billboard’s Top 10 country chart, and more than half of them have gone to No. 1.” That means more than 40 No. 1 hits. That is the legend of King George Strait. With such an incredible body of work, winnowing it down is more than difficult. But these are the 10 greatest songs of George Strait.
10. The Chair
Hank Cochran and Dean Dillon wrote “The Chair,” which George Strait released as the leadoff single from his 1985 Something Special album. It’s a clever song that tells the story of a man picking up a woman in a bar.
The story is that the man claims the woman has his chair, but that is just a ruse. “Excuse me, but I think you’ve got my chair,” he says to her. He uses the white lie to strike up a conversation with her, which leads to him asking her out. Once he knows he has secured her affection, he confesses to the fact that “that wasn’t my chair after all.”
It was such an immensely popular song that CMT gave it the 24th spot on their “Top 100 Country Songs” list. Part of what makes it so interesting is that it has no chorus. It tells the story straight-through– without ever repeating a chorus or refrain.
9. The Cowboy Rides Away
Released in 1985 a the second single from Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, George Strait did not achieve a No. 1 hit with “The Cowboy Rides Away.” It actually peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Regardless, the song has special meaning for both Strait and his fans. It is the song he used to close out his concerts. But more than that, it is the name of his farewell tour, which took place in 2013.
The song is actually about a man leaving a failed relationship, but the iconic imagery of a cowboy riding into the sunset makes this the perfect ending for Strait’s career. He still plays a few dates but overall he is retired and quietly living in Texas.
8. I Cross My Heart
“I Cross My Heart” has to be on any number of greatest wedding songs lists. The love ballad released in 1992 from his Pure Country album, which was also the title of the movie. The song is the finale of the soundtrack.
Pure Country the movie was the first time for George Strait in a movie role. And it didn’t do well at the box office, with ticket sales well below projections. The soundtrack, however, did phenomenally well. In particular was “I Cross My Heart,” which takes the childish notion of making a promise by “cross your heart and hope to die.” But in this case, it’s a serious promise to love her the rest of her life.
One can only wonder how many first wedding dances occurred set to this track since its release.
7. Easy Come, Easy Go
Another No. 1 for King George, “Easy Come, Easy Go” is a song that takes breaking up as seriously as switching breakfast cereals. Alan Barker and Dean Dillon wrote the song, which Strait released as the leadoff single from his 1993 album of the same name. It has a nice easy beat and almost island-like sounds of steel guitars.
Most country songs bathe in sadness and wallow in self-pity, but not this one. This one is just a quiet admission that the relationship is a lost cause. And everyone can peacefully walk away. “No fault, no blame, nobody done no wrong / That’s just the way it sometimes goes / Sometimes two people just don’t get along, it’s time to hit the road.” It’s the perfect song for that breakup that you saw coming but just couldn’t bring yourself to execute. If only breakups could always be that simple.
6. You Know Me Better Than That
Anna Lisa Graham and Tony Haselden wrote this song, which is a really clever tune about regret. Once again, George Strait shows the ability to take a serious subject matter and present it in a manner that is easygoing and almost amusing.
King George released this as the second single from his 1991 Chill of An Early Fall. It was another No. 1 hit for him.
The song is the story of a man frustrated with the expectations of his new girlfriend. In it, he tells the woman who left him just how misunderstood he is by this new love. “I miss picnics and bluejeans and buckets of beer/ Now it’s ballets and symphony halls / I’m in to culture clean up to my ears–it’s like wearing a shoe that’s too small” he complains. Side-note: One of the funnier lines is that his new girlfriend seems to have the idea that he likes her cat– which he obviously does not.
5. You Look So Good In Love
The lead single from his 1983 Right or Wrong album, “You Look So Good In Love” is a beautiful ballad. The story of a man seeing his former lover out with her new love– and realizing that she never looked so in love before. The man feels the pain of not having been able to give her that, yet also appreciates the fact she is now quite happy.
Interestingly, this song is the first one for which George Strait also created a music video, but the story is that he disliked the video so much he refused to do another one for years. Doesn’t seem like it hurt his career.
4. Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
Another one in the long list of 1980s No. 1 hits for Strait, “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” released in 1984 as the leadoff single from his album of the same name. It’s a classic country ballad, with fiddles, guitars, and a slow beat.
The story of a man whose lover is now in the arms of someone in Dallas, he wonders if she ever thinks of Ft. Worth–where he is. It’s sort of like the country version of “Wildest Dreams” by the Moody Blues. And let’s be honest. Who hasn’t sipped a few adult beverages and wondered if an ex is thinking of them.
3. All My Ex’s Live In Texas
A native Texan, we doubt King George was ever lying when he sand the line, “And Texas is the place I dearly love to be.” The rest of it, though, does not much align with his real life. The song is a man lamenting that he has to reside in Tennessee because all of his exes are in Texas. In real life, George Strait has remained married to the same woman for more than 46 years. And he actually does still live in Texas.
Regardless, the song was another smash hit for Strait. He released it in 1987 as the second single from his Ocean Front Property album. The song also earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Male Vocal Performance. Even listening to it now, you expect to open your eyes and be in a Texas dance hall.
2. Ocean Front Property
For any guy who has tried to convince a woman that you love that you actually do love her, “Ocean Front Property” is your song. In it he tells her that if she thinks he doesn’t actually love her, or that it doesn’t matter if she leaves him, he has an offer for her. “I got some ocean front property in Arizona“ he says he will sell her. If she will buy that he doesn’t love her, she will certainly buy that too.
Strait released the song in 1986 as the leadoff single from the album of the same name. Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran had a hand in writing this one, which is true of several Strait hits. This one did especially well, going to No. 1 in both the United States and Canada.
1. Amarillo By Morning
Many George Strait songs give a prominent role to the fiddle or even open with the violin. But none has such a distinguished fiddle opening or closing as “Amarillo By Morning.” The story of a rodeo cowboy trying to eek out a living on the circuit no matter the cost, this tune embodies the entire cowboy ethos, as well as a classic country sound.
The imagery is so evocative that when the fiddle closes the song, you can almost see the cowboy driving his rusty truck into the Texas sunrise. It was a huge hit for Strait and continues to be one of his most iconic songs. For this writer, it is not just the greatest King George Strait song. It is one of the greatest country songs of all time.
Side-note: Chris LeDoux originally recorded “Amarillo By Morning” but it was never the hit for him that it was for Strait.
Deciding on just 10 King George Strait songs as the greatest list was more than a slightly difficult task. We want to know which songs you agree with on the list– and which ones you would change. What are your favorite George Strait songs?