Written in the early ‘70s, “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right,” a song about an adulterous love affair. This song was immediately snapped up by a host of big-named R&B and rock stars. The biggest record on it was by Luther Ingram, who took the song to the No.1 spot for four consecutive weeks on Billboard’s rhythm & blues chart in 1972. Not only that, it is ranked as one of the biggest records ever in that field. Ingram’s version was so huge that it climbed all the way to No. 3 on Billboard’s all-encompassing “Hot 100.”
In the meantime, in Nashville, Barbara Mandrell was no stranger to songs about adulterous love affairs. To continue the “cheating” theme, “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” seemed to be a tailor-made song for her to convert into a country hit.
In an interview with Billboard Magazine, Mandrell emphasized that the lyrics of R & B and country are closely related –
“Strong lyrics that deal with real life,” as she put it. “The simplicity of it is the beauty of it,” she said.
With that said, Barbara put a number of rhythm and blues songs to use in her country career from the very beginning. Her third charted single, 1971’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” was a remake of an Aretha Franklin release. It provided her road band the name “The Do-Rites.”
Producer Tom Collins believed he could make a performance out of that song which would be accepted by country audiences. He worked up a fresh arrangement on it and included some country-sounding production techniques. Collins felt a successful release could be accomplished and he was correct. Barbara’s record reached No. 1 on Billboard’s country singles chart April 14, 1979. But even more amazing was that Mandrell’s version was getting some airplay on several of the nation’s R & B radio stations. Even one in New York City! Her version of the song climbed to No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100, a pretty good showing for a Nashville-based production. It was Barbara’s only single to make the pop Top 40.
In addition to continuing her tradition of R&B remakes, “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” extended Mandrell’s track record of “cheating” hits. Although she was quick to insist that she never strayed from her own marriage. In fact, People Magazine called her “The Snow White of Country Music.” As Barbara told British writer Stan Sayer:
“Any performer who hasn’t the theatrical ability to put herself into the lyrics for a few minutes must have something missing – like talent.”
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