When Bobby Goldsboro released “Honey” for his 1968 album of the same name, it immediately and immensely became popular. It sold a million copies in its first three weeks, making it the fastest-selling record in the history of United Artists.
“Honey” was by far the biggest of Goldsboro’s career. It spent five weeks at No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, and three weeks on top of Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart. Not only that, but the song was also a crossover hit, topping both the pop and country singles charts.
In 1968, the Country Music Association awarded “Honey” as Song of the Year and earned two Grammy Awards nominations during that year. But despite the song’s success, “Honey” made it to various lists of “Worst Songs Ever.” Here’s why.
Is It The Worst Song Ever?
Written by Nashville songwriter Bobby Russell, “Honey” tells the tale of a man who mourns for his deceased wife. The song started with the man looking at a tree in their garden, remembering how “it was just a twig” on the day his wife planted it.
“And now my life’s an empty stage, where honey lived, and honey played, and love grew up. A small cloud passes overhead and cries down on the flower bed that honey loved. Yes, see the tree how big it’s grown. But friend it hasn’t been too long, it wasn’t big. I laughed at her, and she got mad. The first day that she planted, it was just a twig,” the song goes. Russell got the idea for the song when he noticed how much a tree in his front yard had grown in four years.
Russell first produced “Honey” with former Kingston Trio member Bob Shane. He only allowed Goldsboro and producer Bob Montgomery to record it with a strict agreement that it couldn’t be released without his approval, and until Shane’s record finished its run.
The session at which Goldsboro recorded “Honey” took place in Nashville at RCA Studio B, which was known as “home of a thousand hits” and was later turned into a museum. Producer Montgomery then told Jim Bickhart of Billboard Magazine, “we cut it perfectly on the very first take. Everyone looked at each other as if to say ‘Is that it? Did we miss something?'”
They all knew the first cut was perfect, but they did it again just to be sure, and the result was just as good as the second time through, so they went with the second take. In a rare occurrence, all of the musicians stayed around long enough to hear the playback in the control room.
Larry Butler, a pianist who years later gained fame as Kenny Rogers’ producer, recalled, “all of us who played that night knew that “Honey” was going to be a huge record. In fact, most of us called our wives at home so we could play it for them over the phone.”
Indeed, the song enjoyed massive success in the 1960s. However, the song today is often dismissed or disparaged. It has been called “classy schlock,” “innocuous pop,” and even more “dreadful” than Pavarotti. In a poll in 2011, Rolling Stone readers ranked “Honey,” the second-worst song of the 1960s. But many fans defended the song, saying they find it heartfelt and moving.
In 1968 Goldsboro told New Musical Express: “I think ‘Honey’ is a very emotional song, but it’s not like what I call a sick song, a death song. Actually, what it is, very simply, is just a guy remembering little things that happened while his wife was alive, and to me, that’s not sick at all.”
Check out Bobby Goldsboro’s touching performance of “Honey” in the music video below.
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