George Strait's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp
George Strait accepts the 50th Anniversary Milestone Award onstage during the 50th Academy of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium on April 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  

With a record 45 number one singles on the Billboard Country Singles chart, George Strait’s position in country music history is well-cemented. Though he hung up his touring shoes following his successful The Cowboy Rides Away tour in 2013-2014, the singer continues to record and perform, with several shows under his belt in Las Vegas.

When you have a discussion of George Strait songs, one might be wise to break it down to different eras of his career – as his chart numbers are that staggering. But, for the sake of causing some discussion among his fans, Billboard has chosen ten of Strait’s career-defining moments that stand out in his chart history.

Best Songs: Alabama | Alan Jackson | Blake Shelton | Brad Paisley | Carrie Underwood | Chris StapletonDierks Bentley | Dixie ChicksDolly Parton | Eric Church | Garth BrooksGeorge Jones | Jason Aldean | Johnny Cash | John Denver | Keith Urban | Kenny Chesney | Kenny Rogers | Lady Antebellum | Miranda Lambert | Rascal Flatts | Reba McEntire | Shania Twain | Thomas RhettTim McGraw | Toby Keith | Willie Nelson | Zac Brown Band

10. George Strait - “I Hate Everything”

As the singer entered his fifties, several of his songs included a little bit of wisdom due to the experience that he had gained in his life. Nowhere was that more apparent than on this 2004 chart-topper about a man whose bitterness about life serves as notice to a younger bar patron concerning a road that he doesn’t want to proceed down, so he calls his significant other to bury the hatchet.

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0CJG8Ea1rkwW0CQ5U9f5Tm" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

9. George Strait - “Amarillo By Morning”

Though not a number one record, the song has remained a staple of the George Strait catalog with its aching portrayal of the loneliness felt by a rodeo cowboy. Strait’s yearning vocal approach combined with the classic fiddle intro on this one makes this one that fans keep gravitating back to time and time again since its release in the winter of 1983. It definitely found its niche, having been selected by the Western Writers of America as one of the Top 100 Western Songs of All-Time.

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/3Ig9gmkoKZMAGgCXu1bwdH" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

8. George Strait - “One Night At A Time”

A Strait hit that spent five weeks atop the charts, this one was George at his romantic best. The dreamy melody captivated listeners when it was released in the spring of 1997, helping lift the Carrying Your Love With Me disc all the way to a triple-platinum certification.

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/3XAMcx2S1uXuftSowQMQW1" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

7. George Strait - “Give It Away”

The song that helped Strait to pass Conway Twitty for the most number ones in country music history had the word "hit" written all over it. First of all, Strait added just the right amount of sarcasm to the lyrics about a break-up, which were penned by critical favorite Jamey Johnson, veteran tunesmith / producer Buddy Cannon, and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson. Written about Johnson’s impending divorce, the song enabled all four men to laugh – all the way to the top of the charts upon its release in the summer of 2006.

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/5Sqfw0uCMrc2Xam8hXfMMj" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

6. George Strait - “Love Without End, Amen” 

The first of Strait’s hits to spend five weeks at the top, this 1990 single shot to the top in quick fashion thanks to the exposure the singer gave it when he debuted it on the ACM Awards that spring. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the song about a father’s undying love for his children was released to coincide with Fathers’ Day. The song also featured some religious undertones in the final verse, making it one of the first hit George Strait songs to do so.

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/4PvK3MoMr3z32YBnPjgKJN" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

5. George Strait - “I Cross My Heart” 

Perhaps no song represents George Strait as his most romantic and sentimental as this 1992 hit, which served as the centerpiece of the soundtrack from his Pure Country film. In the role of Wyatt “Dusty” Chandler, the singer set female hearts aflutter with the emotional lyrics from Steve Dorff and Eric Kaz, this was also the first Strait single to be co-produced by veteran hitmaker Tony Brown. One of the top love – and wedding – songs in country music history, and nobody does them finer!

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0nzAL0VNodLMlIh0Yl3eSN" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

4. George Strait - “I Just Want To Dance With You”

Roger Cook and the legendary John Prine teamed up for this romantic mid-tempo number that gave George a chance to stretch just a little, with its tropical-flavored “cha-cha” beat. The song was the first single from his 1998 disc One Step At A Time, and provided many a dance-floor moment for fans that summer.

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/5XqMk9gJgG7mhCIqc45amC" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

3. George Strait - “The Fireman”  

Strait was still rising in the country world when this single was released in 1985. Perhaps that’s why this song went no higher than No. 5 on the singles chart. But try omitting this from a George Strait songs discussion (or a set list) and you might be ran out of town. The rowdy lyrics about a man who “cools off” the women in town with a “little mouth to mouth” were among Strait’s more sensual, and needless to say, the female demographic responded quite well to this one – in some cases, more strongly than several of his record-setting amount of number-one hits!

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/5OBxzZZEK9ClnOMdjPqa00" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

2. George Strait - “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”

By 1987, Strait was firmly entrenched as one of the top artists in the format, and this single was a perfect complement of a down-home arrangement buoyed by his wry sense of humor. Reflecting on a life that included plenty of love in his past, and about the same number of partings, the singer gave the listeners many reasons why he should avoid the Lone Star State at all costs – due to the healthy amount of former lovers there. Somehow, you get the feeling that he never left – and likely found new fuel for his flames!

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/2gsWK9fOkV2C7z7zPneO30" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>

1. George Strait - “The Chair”

Dean Dillon has become Strait’s go-to writer of choice, and for good reason. So many of his biggest moments on record come from Dillon, who partnered with the incomparable Hank Cochran on this bit of classic wordplay that became one of of country music’s most unforgettable pick-up lines. Yes, the line “Can I Drink You A Buy?” was actually meant that way, and the listeners loved this ballad to number one perfection in 1985. In the history of classic George Strait songs, this one was definitely “Something Special” - the name of the album from which it was pulled!

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0KThGIwXzsHV4wyEd4FCKc" width="300" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe>