Breakaway (Irma Thomas song)

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Single by Irma Thomas
from the album 'Wish Someone Would Care'
Released 1964
Format 45 RPM
Genre R&B
Label Imperial Records
Songwriter(s) Jackie DeShannon, Sharon Sheeley
Tracey Ullman Breakaway.jpg
Single by Tracey Ullman
from the album You Broke My Heart In 17 Places
Released 1983
Format 45 RPM
Recorded August 1982
Genre Pop
Label Stiff Records
Songwriter(s) Jackie DeShannon, Sharon Sheeley
Producer(s) Peter Collins

"Breakaway" (spelled "Break-a-Way" on the original 45 RPM label, and spelled "Breakaway" on most subsequent releases and compilations) is a song written by Jackie DeShannon and Sharon Sheeley. It was originally recorded by Irma Thomas in 1964 and released as the B-Side of her biggest hit, the US #17 single "Wish Someone Would Care". (A demo version performed by DeShannon was also recorded but remained unreleased until a 1994 compilation).

The original version of "Breakaway" was never a hit. It did not make the Billboard Hot 100, nor the Bubbling Under chart, and the extensive chart archive at ARSA [1] records but a single instance of a radio station in North America placing the track on its playlist - WILS in Lansing, Michigan. Nevertheless, "Breakaway" is today generally a better-remembered song than the A-Side of Thomas' record,[1][2] which might be partly due to Tracey Ullman's hit 1980s cover. It has become a staple in Thomas' live performances and appears on several recent Irma Thomas and "New Orleans music" compilations.

"Breakaway" was Tracey Ullman's 1983 debut single in the UK, and reached #4 in the UK charts. The track then appeared on Ullman's album You Broke My Heart In 17 Places, which was released in 1984.

In North America, "Breakaway" was actually Ullman's second single, being released after her hit "They Don't Know". It charted at a modest #70 in the US in 1984, although the video for Ullman's version received significant play on the then-fledgling MTV and Canada's MuchMusic.

The songs lyrics speak of the singer's inability to find the strength to leave an abusive relationship and describe a situation where the song's first person protagonist is repeatedly on the verge of running away from the bad situation only to find at the last moment she does not have the strength of will to follow through.

It is sometimes assumed that the song's lyrics and message were inspired by Irma Thomas' real marriage at the time which ended in 1966,[2] but as Thomas had no part in writing the song, this seems unlikely.

As performed by both Thomas and Ullman, the song has a fast tempo and a perky happy-sounding beat that is in stark contrast to the song's gloomy lyrics, unlike the Scooter Lee cover, which is much slower.

In 2010, a version of the song by the Detroit Cobras was used in commercials for the NFL RedZone channel.[3]

This song should not be confused with one of the same title recorded by Kelly Clarkson.


  1. ^ Ilva, Jyrki. "Irma Thomas - The Soul Queen of New Orleans". Retrieved 2016-04-13. 
  2. ^ a b Suosalo, Heikki. "Irma Thomas". Soul Express Online. Archived from the original on 2007-02-04. Retrieved 2016-04-13. 
  3. ^ Commercial for NFL RedZone channel, Retrieved November 6, 2010

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