Michael Johnson/billboard.com

But I’m bluer than blue
Sadder than sad

You’re the only light
This empty room has ever had
Life without you is gonna be
Bluer than blue…

There is no bluer and sadder song than this one. This emotional yet poignant music has moved everyone with its message and story. Like the writer of this song, we, too, may have experienced something bluer than most of our blue times…

A 1978 song by Michael Johnson, “Bluer Than Blue” was written by noted pop and country songwriter Randy Goodrum. Originally recorded as a demo, “Bluer Than Blue” was taken as the first single from Johnson’s subsequent LP, The Michael Johnson Album.

Why Bluer than blue?

The song is from the point of view of a man who is in a failing relationship and is trying to convince himself his situation will improve once the one he loved moves on. However, it is evident by the lyrics to the song his efforts are thus far ineffective.

In 1978, Johnson was quoted as saying,

“I knew it was potentially a successful song but I didn’t think it would go this far. It seemed, well, too mature. The experience of being married or living with someone is hard to identify with for younger people.”

This breakup song points out the irony that losing his love will free the singer up for many things, but that none of them will bring much solace.

In an interview with Randy Goodrum, he said,

“It’s a premise. I don’t really relate to that personally in my life. I mean, ‘Bluer Than Blue,’ when I wrote that I’d never been left by anybody. Here’s a way to imagine it: You know when you were a kid, and you’d go to a movie, and you’d see some guy, some hero or something, like if you saw The Great Escape with Steve McQueen, or saw Paul Newman in The Hustler.”

Furthermore, he added,

“For 15 or 20 minutes after you left the theater, you kind of felt like that guy. You know, ‘Yeah, I could do that. I can go learn pool.’ So you feel a piece of that character that you’ve taken on, whether you know it or not, and you can develop that.”

He ended the interview saying,

“And you know you’ve really done it well when you’re just emotionally drained at the end of the experience, because you’ve really reached in and you’ve transferred some emotion from another part of yourself, and put a different set of clothes on it. Still drawing from your emotional gas tank, but you’ve just got a different face on it.”

The song and its reception

The song became Johnson’s first Top 40 hit, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in summer 1978. It also reached #10 on the Cash Box chart. Most noteworthy, it proved even more popular with adult contemporary radio stations. It spent three weeks at #1 on the Easy Listening chart that same year.

To date, this is Johnson’s highest-charting single on Pop or Adult Contemporary charts. Moreover, the song has become a well-known American 1970s soft rock single that continues to be played on radio stations.

Furthermore, the single received generally favorable reviews at the time of its release. Cashbox Magazine described Johnson’s work as

“… full of touching ballads with all the right production touches, subtle instrumentation and poignant vocals necessary to keep the tenderness from becoming insipid”.

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