Thursday, December 19, 2019

"Deep River Woman" by Lionel Richie

Song#:  2986
Date:  01/17/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  71
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Richie's "Ballerina Girl" would be the fourth single lifted from his album Dancing on the Ceiling. It would be his thirteenth consecutive (and last) Top 10 at Pop reaching #7. However, the single served a double purpose. While "Ballerina Girl" was being hawked to a mainstream audience, it's flip side, "Deep River Woman," got promoted at Country radio. Featuring background vocals by country superstar band Alabama, the tune did well enough to reach #10 on the Country chart. It was Richie's first and only Top 10 at Country as an artist (he had previously hit #1 at Country as a songwriter on Kenny Rogers' 1980 single "Lady"). However, Pop and AC radio picked up on the tune and began spinning it as well. Since it was commercially available as a single, the song was able to get on the Pop chart. It only stayed for a month and peaked low, which broke Richie's string of Top 10s. It also interrupted his string of Top 10s at AC by stopping at #28. 

ReduxReview:  Even though "Lady" was recorded by Kenny Rogers, I don't think Richie set out to write a country song. Same with "Stuck on You" (see below). However, this song does sound like that was his intent. The intro guitar, the song title, the "lord" part, and the addition of Alabama screamed that Richie was looking for some country-style cred along with expanding his fan base. The ploy paid off well with the track going to #10 at Country. It seemed a bit forced to me when I first heard it back in the day, but hearing it now I have to say in the long run it ended up being one of the better tracks on the album. "Better" is relative because there was very little I liked on the LP. While I'm not completely sold on the song, it wasn't necessarily a bad effort.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This wasn't Richie's first or last single to reach the Country chart. He first made the chart in 1984 with "Stuck on You" (#3 Pop). That song was able to reach #24. Later in 2012, Richie released an album titled Tuskegee on which he revisited a bunch of his old Commodores and solo hits. Each track featured a guest artist. For the LP, Richie reworked "Deep River Woman." and enlisted the help of another hot country band, Little Big Town. Although the track was not promoted as a single, some country stations spun the song following the release of the album and that airplay made the song hit #60 on the Country chart. It would only stay on the chart for one week.


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