Emmylou Harris is a legendary American singer-songwriter who has been at the forefront of the country music scene since the 1970s. With a career spanning more than five decades, Harris has produced numerous albums and hit singles, earning her a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Her music combines elements of country, folk, rock, and bluegrass, showcasing her unique style and versatility as an artist. In this article, we will explore the top 10 best Emmylou Harris songs of all time. These songs are a testament to her talent and enduring legacy, showcasing her ability to combine powerful lyrics with soulful and emotive vocals. From classic country ballads to uptempo rock tunes, each of these songs has left an indelible mark on the world of music and solidified Harris’s place as one of the greatest country artists of all time.
1. “Sweet Dreams”
“Sweet Dreams” by Emmylou Harris is a timeless classic that has captivated listeners for over four decades. The song was originally written and performed by country music legend Don Gibson in 1955, but it was Emmylou’s rendition that became a hit in 1975, reaching number one on the country charts. Her hauntingly beautiful voice, combined with the simple yet emotive lyrics, create a melancholic atmosphere that evokes feelings of loss and longing. The song tells the story of a love that has ended, leaving the protagonist to dream of the past and wonder what might have been. Emmylou’s version of “Sweet Dreams” is a masterclass in country music storytelling, showcasing her ability to convey emotion and capture the essence of a song.
2. “If I Could Only Win Your Love”
“If I Could Only Win Your Love” is another classic country song by Emmylou Harris, released in 1975. The song was written by her mentor, the legendary Gram Parsons, and is a testament to his influence on her career. The song has a classic country sound with a catchy melody and heartfelt lyrics that tell the story of unrequited love. Emmylou’s vocal performance is both tender and powerful, conveying the depth of emotion in the lyrics. The song is a plea for love, with the protagonist expressing their willingness to do anything to win the heart of the person they love. The song showcases Emmylou’s ability to deliver a powerful and emotional performance that connects with listeners on a deep level. “If I Could Only Win Your Love” is a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences today.
3. “Boulder To Birmingham”
“Boulder To Birmingham” is a poignant song by Emmylou Harris, released in 1975. The song was written as a tribute to her former musical partner, Gram Parsons, who had recently passed away. The song is a reflection on grief, loss, and the struggle to come to terms with the death of a loved one. The lyrics are deeply personal and heartfelt, and Emmylou’s soulful voice captures the sadness and longing of the song perfectly. The title refers to a journey from Colorado (where Parsons died) to Birmingham, Alabama (where Harris was born), which represents the emotional journey of the protagonist. “Boulder To Birmingham” is a beautiful and moving tribute to Gram Parsons and a testament to the enduring power of love and loss.
4. “To Know Him Is To Love Him”
“To Know Him Is To Love Him” is a classic song by the Teddy Bears, originally released in 1958. Emmylou Harris covered the song in 1978 and gave it new life with her beautiful and soulful rendition. The song is a love ballad that expresses the deep connection between two people who are meant to be together. The lyrics are simple yet powerful, and Emmylou’s voice brings them to life with a sense of passion and intensity. The song’s title is based on the epitaph on Phil Spector’s father’s tombstone and the song is often considered to be one of Spector’s greatest compositions. Emmylou’s version of “To Know Him Is To Love Him” is a classic interpretation of a timeless song that continues to touch the hearts of listeners today.
5. “Love Hurts”
“Love Hurts” is a classic song by the Everly Brothers, originally released in 1960. Emmylou Harris covered the song in 1975 and gave it a new dimension with her beautiful and haunting rendition. The song is a reflection on the pain and heartbreak that can come with love, and the lyrics are both poignant and powerful. Emmylou’s voice is full of emotion and vulnerability, conveying the rawness and intensity of the lyrics with ease. The song has been covered by many artists over the years, but Emmylou’s version remains one of the most popular and enduring. “Love Hurts” is a timeless classic that speaks to the universal experience of love and heartbreak, and Emmylou’s version is a testament to her ability to convey deep emotions through her music.
6. “Pancho and Lefty”
“Pancho and Lefty” is a classic country song written by Townes Van Zandt and popularized by Emmylou Harris in 1977. The song tells the story of two outlaws, Pancho and Lefty, and the betrayal that leads to Pancho’s death. The lyrics are rich in symbolism and metaphor, with references to the American West and Mexican culture. Emmylou’s rendition of the song is haunting and evocative, capturing the essence of the story with her emotive voice. The song has become a beloved classic and has been covered by numerous artists over the years, but Emmylou’s version remains one of the most memorable and powerful.
7. “One of These Days”
“One of These Days” is a bluesy country rock song by Emmylou Harris, released in 1976. The song features a driving rhythm and powerful vocals that perfectly capture the song’s sense of urgency and longing. The lyrics speak to the desire for a better life and the determination to make it happen, even in the face of adversity. Emmylou’s vocal performance is both soulful and powerful, conveying the raw emotion of the lyrics with ease. The song showcases her ability to combine different genres and styles of music to create a unique and memorable sound that is unmistakably her own.
8. “Two More Bottles of Wine”
“Two More Bottles of Wine” is an upbeat country rock song by Emmylou Harris, released in 1978. The song features a catchy melody and upbeat rhythm that make it impossible not to dance along. The lyrics speak to the desire to forget one’s troubles and drown them in alcohol, with the protagonist jokingly asking for “two more bottles of wine” to ease her pain. Emmylou’s vocal performance is both fun and powerful, perfectly capturing the playful spirit of the song. The song has become a fan favorite and a staple of Emmylou’s live performances, showcasing her ability to create catchy and memorable country rock tunes that are both fun and meaningful.
9. “Born To Run”
“Born To Run” is a classic rock song by Bruce Springsteen, released in 1975. The song features a driving rhythm, soaring vocals, and powerful lyrics that speak to the desire for freedom and the need to break free from the constraints of a small town. The song has become an anthem for working-class youth and is widely regarded as one of Springsteen’s greatest hits. Emmylou Harris covered the song in 1981, giving it a new dimension with her country-infused rendition. Her version of the song is more laid-back and stripped-down than the original, but still conveys the same sense of urgency and longing. The song showcases Emmylou’s ability to take a classic rock song and make it her own, infusing it with her unique style and sensibility.
10. “Beneath Still Waters”
“Beneath Still Waters” is a classic country song by Dallas Frazier, originally released in 1967. Emmylou Harris covered the song in 1980, giving it new life with her soulful and emotive rendition. The song features haunting lyrics about a love that has gone wrong, and the pain and heartbreak that come with it. Emmylou’s vocal performance is both powerful and vulnerable, conveying the raw emotion of the lyrics with ease. The song showcases her ability to bring a classic country tune to life with her soulful and heartfelt singing. “Beneath Still Waters” has become a beloved classic and a testament to the enduring power of country music.