When Kenny Rogers entered the country charts on September 15, 1979 with the ballad “You Decorated My Life,” he was in a run of form that produced an impressive array of No.1s. The song not only added to that sequence, but led to awards glory for both the crossover country star and the co-writers.
Mixing country and pop
By now, Rogers was firmly established as one of the biggest stars in country music, with a major pop audience to boot. 1977’s “Lucille” was, of course, the game-changer, providing the Houston-born entertainer with his first country No.1 and reaching No.5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was his biggest record since “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” had introduced Rogers and the First Edition to the greater public way back in 1969.
The follow-up “Daytime Friends” may only have made the pop Top 30, but it was another country No.1. So was his subsequent duet with prolific, longtime country hitmaker Dottie West, “Every Time Two Fools Collide.” Further successes with West included another country bestseller in a remake of Sonny & Cher’s “All I Ever Need Is You”; the solo singles “Love Or Something Like It,” “The Gambler” and “She Believes In Me” all, unfailingly, topped the country listings.
When a love song by writers Debbie Hupp and Bob Morrison came along, Kenny and producer Larry Butler heard its potential — but Kenny felt at first that it was just a little too saccharine for his taste. As remembered in The Billboard Book Of No. 1 Country Hits, Hupp’s previous attempt to make a career in songwriting had ended with her going back to Kentucky and working in store security. When she tried again with Biloxi, MS native Morrison, who was emerging as a writer in Nashville circles, “You Decorated My Life” was an early result.
“‘‘Decorated’? Come on, man’”
“That was one of those songs that I never even expected to get recorded,” Bob Morrison said in the book. “When Debbie and I finished it, a lot of people said ”Decorated’? Come on, man.’ It is unusual with respect to that word.” Morrison, indeed, recorded the first version of the song himself, for Monument, with no success. The pair pitched it to West, who declined it, and when it landed on Rogers’ desk, he too was unsure. Eventually, after a year, he caved in, with spectacular results.
“You Decorated My Life” entered the country chart at No.48, a week after its pop debut at No.70. By the first week in November, it became yet another country chart-topper for Rogers, peaking at No.7 pop. It went on to win a Grammy for Country Song of the Year, and helped Morrison to be named Songwriter of the Year in 1980 by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. The song helped the parent album Kenny spend 24 weeks atop the country chart. How lucky it was that Rogers relented and recorded it.
“You Decorated My Life” is on the album The Best of Kenny Rogers, which can be bought here.