By: Juliette Jagger (@juliettejagger)
When Anne Murray released, “You Needed Me” in 1978, she hadn’t had a hit single in four years. As an artist, momentum is everything, and that kind of radio silence is typically a career killer.
Thankfully for Murray, that wasn’t the case.
“You Needed Me,” which appeared on her 12th studio album, Let’s Keep It That Way, revitalized her career and became her biggest record to date.
At 33, Murray had plenty to phone home about. She had already released a string of radio hits including a rendition of Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song” (1972), “A Love Song” (1973), “He Thinks I Still Care” (1973), and a Top 10 cover of The Beatles’ “You Won’t See Me” (1974). She had clocked both record sales and television ratings in the millions, but her focus was shifting. She and then husband, producer and longtime host of Singalong Jubilee, Bill Langstroth, had just started a family.
“Four years is quite a long time between hit songs,” says Murray. “At least it was in those days. As an artist, you do start to get a bit uneasy, but I had also just become a mother for the first time, so I had other things on my mind. Sometimes that works well because you’re not as nervous or scared and scrambling. ‘You Needed Me’ just seemed to come into my life at the right moment, and everything else aligned.”
Interestingly, Murray discovered the song in a box of cassette tapes she had previously marked, “Listen To Again,” but it wasn’t until she did so that she heard everything the song could be.
“I was going through so many tapes in those days,” says Murray. “Every day people would send them to me and I would have hundreds and hundreds of tapes. Sometimes your ears take a beating and you don’t know what you’re hearing any more, so I would have to put things aside. If the songs had any hope at all I would put them in that box. That’s where ‘You Needed Me’ was when I found it.
“When I listened to it again I had to sit down because I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard it the first time,” she adds. “It was staggeringly beautiful and staggeringly good. I was just breathless when I heard it. I knew, I just knew.”
So moved by the song, Murray immediately picked up the phone and placed a call to her office.
“I just said, ‘You’ve got to find out about this song and how we put it on hold.’ In my mind it was just so good that it really couldn’t be stopped.”
Written several years prior by Nashville-based songwriter Randy Goodrum, “You Needed Me” almost didn’t see the light of day.
“Randy wrote the song for his wife,” says Murray. “And, it’s pretty self-explanatory, kind of like, ‘I can’t believe you love me the way you do.’ My understanding is that when he first showed it to her, she sort of said, ‘Yeah yeah, it’s nice,’ which obviously wasn’t the response Randy was hoping for,” says Murray with a laugh. “So, he crumpled it up and threw it out. I’m still not entirely sure how it found its way to me.”
But, despite its obvious appeal, “You Needed Me” wasn’t an easy sell. Murray’s label, Capitol Records, didn’t like the fact that the song had been written without a traditional chorus and felt it wasn’t exactly a surefire pick.
“It’s funny because when I started playing the song for people, that songwriter form was so deeply ingrained in everybody’s heads that they couldn’t get over the fact that it needed a chorus. We even went out and tried to get somebody to write one. I mean how stupid is that? But, those were the sorts of questions that were flying around. I just kept saying, ‘It doesn’t matter. It’s too good.’”
To complicate matters further, the label had already selected the title track, “Let’s Keep It That Way,” as the album’s first single and sent the record out to be pressed.
“When I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere at home, I went to see the president of Capitol Records, Don Zimmerman, at the Capitol Records Tower in Los Angeles,” recalls Murray. “I just told him, ‘You’ve got to do this for me. I just have such a strong feeling about this song.’
“I had never, ever asked him to do anything for me before. Generally, the label would suggest things and I usually did them, but for whatever reason this particular time he just looked at me and said, ‘Okay.’ He picked up the phone and stopped the presses on the spot, and well, when it went to number one, we both looked like heroes.”
Continue reading via the National Music Centre.