Delta Dawn

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"Delta Dawn"
Delta Dawn - Tanya Tucker.jpg
Single by Tanya Tucker
from the album Delta Dawn
B-side "I Love the Way He Loves Me"
Released May 13, 1972
Recorded 1972
Genre Country
Length 3:09
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Larry Collins, Alex Harvey
Producer(s) Billy Sherrill
Tanya Tucker singles chronology
"Delta Dawn"
"Love's the Answer" / "The Jamestown Ferry"
"Delta Dawn"
Delta Dawn - Helen Reddy.jpg
Single by Helen Reddy
from the album Long Hard Climb
B-side "If We Could Still be Friends"
Released June 1973
Format 7"
Recorded 1972
Genre Adult contemporary
Length 3:11
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Larry Collins, Alex Harvey
Producer(s) Tom Catalano
Helen Reddy singles chronology
"Delta Dawn"
"Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)"

"Delta Dawn" is a song written by former child rockabilly star Larry Collins and songwriter Alex Harvey,[a] best known as a 1972 top ten country hit for Tanya Tucker[1] and a number one hit for Helen Reddy in 1973.


The title character is a faded former Southern belle from Brownsville, Tennessee who, at forty-one, is obsessed to unreason with the long-ago memory of a suitor who jilted her. The song's lyrics describe how the woman regularly "walks down town with a suitcase in her hand / looking for a mysterious dark haired man" who she says will be taking her "to his mansion in the sky".

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

Recording history[edit]

The first recording of "Delta Dawn" was made by Harvey for his eponymous album released in November 1971. Harvey had performed as the opening act for Helen Reddy in January 1972, at the Troubadour, but at that time Reddy (who also was signed with the Capitol Records label) made no evident connection with any of Harvey's compositions.[2]

Dianne Davidson sang backup for Harvey's recording. She was the first singer after Harvey to record the song and chart in 1971–1972.[citation needed]

Tracy Nelson also sang backup on Harvey's recording, and performed "Delta Dawn" in her live act.[citation needed]

Bette Midler[edit]

After hearing Tracy Nelson sing the song at the Bottom Line in New York City, Bette Midler added the song to her repertoire.[citation needed]

During the time Tanya Tucker’s and Helen Reddy’s recordings of the song were being produced (see below), Bette Midler recorded "Delta Dawn" for her The Divine Miss M debut album, for which her bluesy version was planned as the lead single. Reddy's single was released June 1973, two days before Midler's. The preemption required a marketing change to Midler's single, so the original B-side "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" was shopped to radio, itself becoming a Top Ten hit.

Tanya Tucker[edit]

Before Midler’s recording, Nashville-based producer Billy Sherrill heard her sing "Delta Dawn" on The Tonight Show and wanted to sign Midler to Epic Records and have her record the song. Upon finding 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 in April 1972; it reached Number 6 C&W that spring.[3]

Helen Reddy[edit]

Record producer Tom Catalano prepped an instrumental track of "Delta Dawn", virtually replicating that of Tucker's single. 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.[4]

Reddy's version, with upward modulation added to the mimicking of Tucker's cold intro and nonstop vocals throughout, entered the Top Ten hit 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.[5]

Reddy had reached number two with both "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "I Am Woman" in her native Australia; "Delta Dawn" became her first number-one hit, spending five weeks at the top of the Kent Music Report in August and September 1973.[6] "Delta Dawn" also marked Reddy's only chart appearance in South Africa, reaching number 13 in the autumn of 1973.[7]

Other recordings[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Tanya Tucker version[edit]

Chart (1972) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 72
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[9] 6
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 3

Helen Reddy version[edit]

Use in popular media[edit]


  1. ^ The co-writer more often goes by the name Alexander Harvey today, to avoid being confused with Glaswegian rocker Alex Harvey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 357. 
  2. ^ "(unknown)". Billboard. Vol. 84 no. 2. 8 January 1972. p. 12. 
  3. ^ Tucker, Tanya (1997). Nickel Dreams: My life (Large print ed.). Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-7862-1182-2. 
  4. ^ Tucker, Tanya (1997). Nickel Dreams: my life (Large print ed.). Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-7862-1182-2. 
  5. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 126. ISBN 0-8230-7693-8. 
  6. ^ a b "Australian Weekly Single Ccharts (David Kent) for 1973". Retrieved June 7, 2018. 
  7. ^ a b "SA Charts 1965 - 1989 Acts R". South African Rock Lists. Retrieved 7 June 2018. 
  8. ^ "Tanya Tucker Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  9. ^ "Tanya Tucker Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  10. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 19XX-XX-XX.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  11. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1973-09-29. Retrieved 2018-02-19. 
  12. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 27 August 1973
  13. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  14. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, September 15, 1973
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  16. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (December 26, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly". 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Billboard Year-End Charts 1973" (PDF). 
  19. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1973

External links[edit]