'70s Country Cheatin' Hits
by Chuck Eddy | September 2, 2013
Cheating songs divide into three narrative categories: (1) Songs where the singer betrays a partner; (2) songs where the singer fools around with someone betraying a partner; and (3) songs where the singer herself or himself is being betrayed. A major subset of this third category includes songs where the singer directly confronts said rival: Famously Dolly Parton's "Jolene," though Barbara Mandrell perfected confrontation country by borrowing a call-the-other-woman-on-the-telephone monologue technique used in soul records she covered. She did Category 1 songs too, notably working late at the office in 1974's unbelievably raunchy Top 10 C&W hit "The Midnight Oil," in which oil makes her feel "kinda dirty" after she lends her boss a "helping hand."
What this 25-song playlist makes clear, if it wasn't already, is that the '70s were one big ice storm of a decade with a whole lotta cheatin' goin' on, and a whole lotta people feelin' really guilty about it but not lettin' that stop them from sinnin' on the side. Or at least country artists sure acted like it. A few stars here in addition to Mandrell were so fond of the theme that it was necessary to include more than one selection by them: Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty (both with and without each other); The Kendalls (a Missouri father-daughter duo who bizarrely specialized in hits about being a cheating couple); Jeanne Pruett (who topped the country chart with 1973's "Satin Sheets," then hit big with "Temporarily Yours" seven years later). Several songs here, including numerically inclined lie-detector tests by Bill Anderson and Dolly's sister Stella Parton, appeared on a 1981 vinyl Warner Special Products compilation called Motels and Memories, which inspired this mix. A disclaimer, however: "'70s" here is actually defined as "1969 through 1980 or so." Messy, sure -- but then, cheating probably always is.