Penned by Dub Allbritten and Ronnie Self, “I’m Sorry” is a 1960 hit song by then 15-year-old American singer Brenda Lee. It peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in July 1960.
AllMusic guide wrote that it is the pop star’s “definitive song,” and one of the “finest teen pop songs of its era.”
When the song was released, it was considered to be the flip side of the “That’s All You Gotta Do.” Although “That’s All You Gotta Do” was a chart success in its own right, reaching number 6 on the Hot 100, it was “I’m Sorry” that became the smash hit and the standard. On other charts, “I’m Sorry” peaked at number four on the R&B chart.
A Hit Song of a Fifteen-year-old Girl
You see folks, you might want to be careful about falling in love with this voice. Brenda Lee was just fifteen years old when she recorded the song.
According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, Brenda Lee recorded the song early in 1960. However, her label, Decca Records, held it from release for several months. They were concerned that a 15-year-old girl was not mature enough to sing about unrequited love.
While holding back the song’s release for a few months, Decca Records pondered the legalities of having a teenager sing with such passion about affairs of the heart. In fact, Brenda Lee was a child star.
Brenda began her career at the age of six. In addition, She won a school talent show whose reward was to perform live on a local Atlanta radio show. Furthermore, she was born and raised in a poor family in the red-clay belt of Georgia. Hence, she became the chief breadwinner for the family.
“I’m Sorry”: An Example of a “Nashville Sound”
This song is notable for being one of the first examples of the “Nashville Sound.” This sound focuses on stringed instrument sections, backing vocals, and a crooning lead singer – sort of a fusion between country, pop, and a dash of doo-wop. It was pioneered by RCA and Columbia Records in the mid-1950s.
Although “I’m Sorry” was never released to country radio in the United States as a single, it would in time become accepted by American country fans as a standard of the genre. The song — a fixture on many “country oldies” programs — was an early example of the new “Nashville Sound.”
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Brenda Lee, I'm Sorry