Popularly known by her mononym, Charlene, Charlene Marilynn D’ Angelo Duncan Oliver (b. 1950) is an American easy-listening, R&B, and pop singer. She became well-known mainly because of this 1982 hit, “I’ve Never Been to Me”. (Photo Credit: Youtube.com)
Written and composed by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch, “I’ve Never Been to Me” is a ballad which is best known via a recording by American pop singer Charlene.
Originally released in 1977, “I’ve Never Been to Me” barely registered on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. It was then re-released in 1982 where it hit no. 3 in the US. Moreover, it earned Charlene a Gold Certification in Australia. In addition, the song topped the charts in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.
‘Been to paradise but never been to me…’
Best known as lyrically formatted for a female vocalist, the song is addressed to a desperate wife and mother. She would like to trade her prosaic existence for the jet-setting lifestyle the song’s narrator has led. The narrator alludes to various hedonistic episodes in her life. As a conclusion, while she’s “been to paradise”, she’s ultimately failed to find self-fulfillment. This was expressed in the line, “I’ve never been to me.”
On the other hand, there is also an alternative set of lyrics for the song formatted for a male singer. The narrator is an elderly man, destined to die the very next day. Begging for a dime for a cup of coffee, he addresses a younger man who is “raising hell” the way the old man used to do.
Charlene and the song
Charlene had recorded “I’ve Never Been to Me” in 1976 for her debut album, the self-titled Charlene, a Prodigal release. Songs of Love came out six months later in 1977. To add, it was essentially a re-issue of Charlene. It has a slightly different track listing but retained “I’ve Never Been to Me” without the spoken section.
Upon its September 1977 single release, “I’ve Never Been to Me” became Charlene’s third consecutive single to stall in the lowest part of the Billboard Hot 100.
The earliest version of “I’ve Never Been to Me” to be released was that by Randy Crawford. It appeared on his 1976 album release Everything Must Change. Besides Charlene’s version, 1977 also saw the release of versions of the song by Nancy Wilson and Walter Jackson.
Nancy Wilson’s version served as the title track of her June 1977 album release. Meanwhile, Walter Jackson’s version – featuring the lyric formatted from a male perspective – was featured on his I Want To Come Back As A Song album released in the spring of 1977.
In February 1978, a mid-tempo recording of “I’ve Never Been to Me” by Mary McGregor was released. It was included in her In Your Eyes album. A modified version of MacGregor’s version was sent out to radio stations with the possibly controversial line in the final chorus:
“I spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free”, amended to “I thought my heart would wait but I learned too late that it costs too much to be free.”
Also in 1978, Marti Caine recorded the song for her album release Behind the Smile from which it was issued as a single. On the other hand, Mary Roos recorded the German rendering by lyricist Michael Kunze. It was entitled “Doch mich selber kenn ich nicht” (But I do not know myself) for her album Maryland.
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Charlene, I've Never Been To Me