Every Country Music Song of the Year Since 1967

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1982: Always on My Mind
> Songwriter(s): Wayne Carson Thompson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James
> Performer / recording artist:
> Number of weeks on Billboard 100: 16 weeks between March 13, 1982 and June 26, 1982

Pop singer B.J. Thomas — known for such hits as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” among other songs — was the first performer to record this love ballad, and Elvis Presley had a modest hit with it two years later. The definitive interpretation, however, is Willie Nelson’s 1982 Grammy-winning version, and it was in ’82 that the CMAs acknowledged it. Three songwriters take credit: Wayne Carson (who also wrote the Box Tops’ hit “The Letter”), Johnny Christopher (who also wrote the Elvis song “Mama Liked the Roses”), and Mark James (whose other triumphs include “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Suspicious Minds”).

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1983: Always on My Mind
> Songwriter(s): Wayne Carson Thompson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James
> Performer / recording artist: Willie Nelson
> Number of weeks on Billboard 100: 16 weeks between March 13, 1982 and June 26, 1982

As with “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Easy Loving” before it, “Always on My Mind” impressed the Country Music Association so much that they declared it Song of the Year two years running.

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1984: The Wind Beneath My Wings
> Songwriter(s): Larry Henley, Jeff Silbar
> Performer / recording artist: Gary Morris
> Number of weeks on Billboard 100: 13 weeks between Aug. 27, 1983 and Nov. 19, 1983

Gary Morris had a number of country hits in the 1980s, and though this song was also recorded by the likes of Roger Whittaker, Sheena Easton, Lou Rawls, and Gladys Knight and the Pips, his version remained the highest-charting iteration until Bette Midler tackled it in 1989. Larry Henley — who had been part of a one-hit wonder band called The Newbeats (“Bread and Butter”) — co-wrote the song with Jeff Silbar, author of Lobo’s “Where Were You When I Was Falling in Love.”

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1985: God Bless the USA
> Songwriter(s): Lee Greenwood
> Performer / recording artist: Lee Greenwood
> Number of weeks on Billboard 100: 12 weeks between June 2, 1984 and Aug. 18, 1984

Though many of his songs were romantic ballads, Lee Greenwood made it big with this rousing neo-conservative effort, which became an oft-heard theme song during GOP political campaigns in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush eras. He both wrote and recorded it, and it is known as his signature song.

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1986: On the Other Hand
> Songwriter(s): Paul Overstreet, Don Schlitz
> Performer / recording artist: Randy Travis
> Number of weeks on Billboard 100: 16 weeks between May 10, 1986 and Aug. 23, 1986

The first artist to record this song by the team of Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz was a then little-known Randy Travis, whose 1985 version peaked at No. 67 on the Billboard country charts. Rereleased a year later, it soared to the top, becoming Travis’s first No. 1 hit. Overstreet also wrote songs for George Jones, Alison Krauss, and others, and recorded 11 top 40 country songs on his own. Schlitz made his name with the Kenny Rogers smash “The Gambler” (see above).