21 Best 80s Country Songs: The Ultimate Playlist

80s country songs
PITTSBURGH, PA - June 28, 2016 Dolly Parton performs in Pittsburgh Tuesday, June 28 at Consol Energy Center. Parton is currently, supporting the release of 'Pure & Simple with Dolly's Biggest Hits.' Image from Shutterstock.

Last updated on June 1st, 2023 at 09:29 pm

Alright, Generation X, if you were born in the mid to late 70s, it’s time to reminisce about all those classic country songs that defined your childhood. Millennials and beyond get ready to learn what true country music used to be.

The country music of the 1980s was chockful of some of the greatest hits from our favorite country artists and was the kickstart of many of the most prominent careers in country music today. They’re the songs and artists that inspired the likes of Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, and more. So, grab a pen and get ready to take notes.

Here’s our list of the 21 best 80s country songs that will take you back to the good ol’ days and the best country music ever had to offer.

21. “When You Say Nothing at All” – Keith Whitley

“When You Say Nothing at All” was late in the game to the 80s country songs, released in 1988 by Keith Whitley, but it’s no less a definer of the decade.

No matter what decade you might be listening to, the need to find that perfect sentiment of love never grows old, and the way this song talks about the importance of being able to tell the person you love just how much you love them without saying a word is the most perfect expression of them all.

We have nothing to say at all either, except that it must be included on your best 80s country songs playlist.

20. “Fishin’ in the Dark” – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Can it get more country than “Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Band?

This 1987 number one, certified platinum hit is the perfect definition of a honky-tonk, and hillbilly-esque love song that tells the story of a couple contemplating a late-night fishing date. 

If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll note that spending a night counting the stars with the river flowing and a full moon is a pretty romantic idea, and we wouldn’t object to going on this kind of adventure either.

19. “I’m Gonna Love Her on the Radio” – Charley Pride

Here is what we’ll say about “I’m Gonna Love Her on the Radio.”

We love Charley Pride for turning what was a revenge song when David Allan Coe released it as “I’m Gonna Hurt You on the Radio” in 1985 into a romantic plea to win back the one he loves.  

Related: The Top 15 Black Country Singers Spanning 100 Years

18. “Killin’ Time” – Clint Black

This song was so late in the game it could barely make our list of the best 80s country songs, but it just made the cut.

When Clint Black released “Killin’ Time” in July 1989, it became an anthem for all those numbing the pain of losing love over a bottle of alcohol, whether you’re getting drunk on whiskey or some other liquid pleasure.

It doesn’t surprise us that he earned his second number-one single for the classic song, which also earned him the Horizon Award from the Country Music Association.

17. “I Love a Rainy Night” – Eddie Rabbitt

To think we may not have been calling “I Love a Rainy Night” one of the best 80s country songs had it not taken 12 years to complete is unfathomable, but I guess it’s an indication that timing is everything.

Eddie Rabbitt just happened to be going through some old boxes to discover the fragment of a song recorded on a tape, and the juices started flowing. 

Fred Bronson, a music historian, wrote of the occurrence in his book, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits: “It brought back the memory of sitting in a small apartment, staring out the window at one o’clock in the morning, watching the rain come down. He sang into his tape recorder, ‘I love a rainy night, I love a rainy night.'”

Rabbitt perfectly describes the peace that can come with a raging thunderstorm if only for the new life it brings once it’s over, and the sun comes out. 

It makes us say, “I Love a Rainy Night,” too.

16. “A Country Boy Can Survive” – Hank Williams Jr.

Hank Williams Jr. knew what he was doing when he released “A Country Boy Can Survive” in 1982.

This classic country number-two hit flawlessly encapsulates the endurance of the country boy as growing urbanization seemed to impact the life of the rural communities negatively.

If that weren’t enough to make it one of the best 80s country songs, when the legendary artist released a new version called “America Will Survive” in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack as an uplifting tribute to Americans across all 50 states, it brought the sentiment of the song into a whole new light that made everyone love the old and the new.  

15. “Dixieland Delight” – Alabama

Who doesn’t want a weekend of fun and relaxation with the one you love after a hard work week?

“Dixieland Delight” gives us an anthem for that feeling and has become one of the most iconic singles gifted to us by Alabama.

While it is one of the signature 80s country songs, it has continued to make waves in music today, being referenced in several songs, such as “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes, and it only makes the original that much more iconic.

14. “Country Boy” – Ricky Skaggs

As soon as we hear that opening guitar lick of “Country Boy” by Ricky Skaggs, we immediately tap our foot and get ready to enjoy one of the best 80s country songs we’ll ever have the pleasure to know.

With his signature country twang, Skaggs reminds us in this upbeat tune, written by Tony Colton, Albert Lee, and Ray Smith, that you should never judge a book by its cover because it’s what’s in the heart that matters most. 

And we’re with him when we say that, no matter what, we’re always country boys and girls at heart.

13. “Whoever’s in New England” – Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire made her breakthrough with this 1986 single, establishing herself as the queen of the country music storyteller.

“Whoever’s in New England,” tells the story of a woman who is afraid that her husband is being unfaithful when he goes on business trips to Boston, but she doesn’t leave him.

Instead, she boldly proclaims, “You’ll always have a place to come back to when whoever’s in New England is through with you.”

We can’t help but show her some respect for that and thank this song for giving us our favorite red-headed bombshell.  

Related: The Best 18 Female Country Singers of All Time: Who Made the List?

12. “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” – George Strait

We love everything about this clever song from the King of Country, George Strait.

We can’t help but enjoy the perfectly written “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” for which the narrator recalls all his failed relationships with women while living in Texas. 

And it’s even more classic that all of his exes just so happen to have names that perfectly rhyme with some of the state’s most famous cities.

This song brings in some of the corniness of 80s country songs, which is one reason we love it so much. 

We’re glad George Strait hangs his hat in Tennessee; otherwise, we may have never gotten this number-one song.

11. “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ole Days)” – The Judds

We never get tired of listening to this nostalgic 80s country song from our favorite mother-daughter duo.

The Judds, aka Naomi and Wynonna Judd, released “Grandpa” in 1985, and it’s been one of our favorite country hits ever since.

We can’t help but want to ask our grandpas the same questions about lasting love, kept promises, praying families, and staying committed fathers. 

Maybe if we could, we’d get to finally hear the answer.

10. “Islands in the Stream” – Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers are two of the biggest superstars surrounding the best 80s country songs. You put the two of them together and get the classic duet, “Islands in the Stream,” to show for it.

This chart-topping hit is perfectly blended in melody and vocal to create a mid-tempo exchange between the two singers as they ride on the bliss of love like “Islands in the Stream,” and we can’t get enough of it.

As the old joke goes: Kenny and Dolly, what a pair!

9. “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)” – Alabama

This 1984 hit by Alabama perfectly defined the era of country music at that time, as the use of the fiddle throughout the song backed up the point of the classic lyrics.

This Billboard Hot Country Songs number-one single isn’t just one of the best 80s country songs but one of the best country songs ever recorded, period.

Related: 13 Best Alabama Songs that Defined 80s and 90s Country Music

8 “Forever and Ever, Amen” – Randy Travis

Like many of the best 80s country songs, the promise of a lifetime commitment to the one you love reigns supreme in Randy Travis’s “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

This classic country love song has never gotten old, and we will gladly listen to it forever and ever for as long as we live.  

7. “Could I Have This Dance” – Anne Murrey

When you find the one that you know you want to spend the rest of your life with, you also can never imagine yourself taking the dance floor with anyone else.

Anne Murrey’s classic 1980s song, “Could I Have This Dance,” expresses that thought beautifully in this slow, romantic ballad, which earned her a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female, and a number-one spot on the Hot Country Songs Chart.

6. “Meet Me in Montana” – Dan Seals and Marie Osmond

Sometimes it takes going down separate paths to learn that what you had all along was where you were supposed to be in the first place.

Dan Seals and Marie Osmond share that lesson in their 1985 duet, “Meet Me in Montana,” which tells the story of two lovers who part in order to pursue their dreams and then realize that they’re better off being together once their respective plans fall apart.

It’s such a timeless song that it didn’t just hit number one on the charts but earned the pair the Vocal Duo of the Year award from the Country Music Awards the following year, and we couldn’t be more pleased by it.

5. “On the Road Again” – Willie Nelson

Could we pick a better song to represent the living legend of country music?

On the Road Again,” released in 1980, is one of Willie Nelson’s signature songs, which he surprisingly wrote on a barf bag while on a flight after he was asked to write a theme song for his upcoming movie, Honeysuckle Rose. 

It just goes to prove that some of the best 80s country songs on our list have the oddest of beginnings.

Related: Willie Nelson’s Net Worth and Other Essential Facts 

4. “God Bless the USA” – Lee Greenwood

If you’re looking for a song about American pride, then it’s time to queue up Lee Greenwood’s classic hit, “God Bless the USA.”

Released in 1984, this perfectly crafted song covers all four corners of the United States as the singer proudly proclaims that no matter what happens, he’ll always support America because it’s the country he loves and where he feels he will always remain free.

God Bless you, Lee Greenwood, for giving us this timeless song.

Related: The 25 Best Songs About America

3. “9 to 5” – Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is still a queen of country music today, but make no mistake, she was the queen of the 80s country music, giving us a stream of timeless classics that began with this upbeat song for every working man and woman to relate to.

Written for the 1980 film of the same name, Parton shows off her skills not just for performing but for songwriting once again with this upbeat song that glorifies the dedication of the every day 9 to 5 office worker, and it’s one of the reasons we love this blonde beauty so much.

Those Grammy Awards she earned were well deserved, that’s for sure.

2. “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” – Barbara Mandrell

Barbara Mandrell defined 80s country songs with “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” serving up an anthem for all those country music lovers of the soul. 

And it remains a classic for those of today that don’t care for the country-pop feel currently playing on the radio, labeled as mainstream country that often loses that classic Nashville sound.

This song perfectly describes what it means to stick to your guns and remain who you are no matter what anyone says. Go ahead and flaunt those cowboy hats and leather boots and strut down the street.

This number-one song on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart is a classic, and we’ll always make sure we stay country even if country isn’t cool.

1. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – George Jones

There is a reason that “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones is the best of the 80s country songs. All one has to do is sing that opening line, “He said, ‘I’ll love you ’til I die,'” and the whole room will burst out in applause.

While the sentiment of it is heartbreaking, knowing the man was in love with the woman that left him until his dying breath, Jones’ delivery of the song makes it a classic tune that never gets old. 

To think he almost didn’t record it, too, reportedly calling it “too long, too sad, too depressing, and that nobody would ever play it.”

We’re sure glad that he recorded it anyway and was proven wrong as it earned him his first number-one hit in six years and has gone down as one of the most legendary 80s country songs, hell, just plain country songs, we’ve ever been gifted with. 

It’s classic country music at its best.

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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