Delta Dawn

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"Delta Dawn"
Single by Tanya Tucker
from the album Delta Dawn
B-side "I Love the Way He Loves Me"
Released 1972
Recorded 1972
Genre Country
Length 3:09
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Larry Collins, Alex Harvey
Producer(s) Billy Sherrill
Tanya Tucker singles chronology
"Delta Dawn"
(1972)
"Love's the Answer"/"The Jamestown Ferry"
(1972)
"Delta Dawn"
Single by Helen Reddy
from the album Long Hard Climb
Released June 1973
Format 7"
Recorded 1972
Genre Adult contemporary
Length 3:11
Label Capitol
Producer(s) Tom Catalano
Helen Reddy singles chronology
"Peaceful"
(1973)
"Delta Dawn"
(1973)
"Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)"
(1973)

"Delta Dawn" is a song written by former child rockabilly star Larry Collins and songwriter Alex Harvey (who more often goes by the name Alexander Harvey today, and is not to be confused with the late Glaswegian rocker Alex Harvey), best known as a 1972 top ten C&W hit for Tanya Tucker and a number-one hit for Helen Reddy in 1973.

Lyrical story[edit]

The title character is a faded Southern belle from Brownsville, Tennessee, who at forty-one is obsessed to unreason by the long ago memory of an errant suitor. The song's lyrics describe how the woman regularly

"walks downtown with a suitcase in her hand
Looking for a mysterious dark haired man" who she says is "meeting her…today
To take [her] to his mansion in the sky".

Reddy's recording in particular has choir-like inspirational overtones as well.

Background and recording history[edit]

The first recording of "Delta Dawn" was made by Harvey for his eponymous album released in November 1971. Although Harvey opened for Helen Reddy – his Capitol labelmate – at the Troubadour in January 1972, Reddy made no apparent connection with any of Harvey's compositions at that time.[1]

Dianne Davidson, who sang backup on Harvey's recording was the first artist to record a cover and chart in 1971–72. Tracy Nelson, who sang backup on Harvey's recording, performed "Delta Dawn" in her live act. After hearing Nelson sing "Delta Dawn" at the Bottom Line in New York City, Bette Midler added the song to her repertoire. Nashville-based producer Billy Sherrill heard Midler sing "Delta Dawn" on The Tonight Show and wanted to sign her to Epic Records and have her record the song. Finding out that Midler was already signed to Atlantic Records, Sherrill cut the song with Tanya Tucker who was newly signed to Epic and Tucker's version was released April 1972 to reach number 6 C&W that spring.[2]

Record producer Tom Catalano prepped an instrumental track of "Delta Dawn", virtually replicating that of Tucker's single, and – despite Catalano having worked with Helen Reddy – the track was first offered to Barbra Streisand, upon whose refusal Catalano had Reddy add her vocals to the track.[2]

In the meantime Bette Midler had recorded "Delta Dawn" for her The Divine Miss M debut album from which her bluesy version was planned as the lead single. The June 1973 single release of Reddy's version was two days before Midler's, necessitating the amendment of the latter's single so that the original B-side "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" was shopped to radio, becoming a Top Ten hit. Reddy's version, with upward modulation added to the mimicking of Tucker's cold intro and nonstop vocals throughout, entered the Top Ten on 18 August 1973 on its way to its lone frame at number 1, on 15 September 1973. Reddy's Hot 100 #1 hits, in order, were 1972's "I Am Woman", then "Delta Dawn", then 1974's "Angie Baby". "Delta Dawn" also became the first of Reddy's six consecutive – and eight overall – number 1 hits on the Easy Listening chart in Billboard.[3]

In Reddy's native Australia, where she had reached number 2 with both "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "I Am Woman", "Delta Dawn" became Reddy's first number 1 hit, spending five weeks atop the chart in August and September 1973. The follow-up single "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" gave Reddy a second consecutive – and final – Australian number 1.

"Delta Dawn" also marked Reddy's only chart appearance in South Africa, reaching number 13 in the autumn of 1973.

The Statler Brothers recorded "Delta Dawn" and released it on their 1973 Mercury album, The Statler Brothers Sing Country Symphonies in E Major.

Chart performance (Tanya Tucker)[edit]

Chart (1972) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 72[4]
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 6 [4]
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 3

Other versions[edit]

  • Vince Nowak gave a rousing rendition at Kelly's Bar in Wesport in 1973.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Billboard vol#84 #2 (8 January 1972) p.12
  2. ^ a b Tucker, Tanya (1997). Nickel Dreams: my life (Large print ed.). Waterville ME: Thorndike Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-7862-1182-2. 
  3. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits. New York City: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 126. ISBN 0-8230-7693-8. 
  4. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944–2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 357. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye
US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
September 15, 1973 (one week)
Succeeded by
"We're An American Band" by Grand Funk