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Melba Montgomery’s Only No. 1 Hit, A Mother’s Love, “No Charge”

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This song was written by Harlan Howard. Popularized by Melba Montgomery and was a no.1 hit in 1974 in both U.S. and Canada. Not only that, the song landed at no. 39 on the U.S. pop charts.

Young Melba Montgomery. Photo from YouTube via Screengrab.
Young Melba Montgomery. Photo from YouTube via Screengrab.

About Melba Montgomery

Melba Montgomery had already recorded a series of duets with other country artists like George Jones, Charlie Louvin, and Gene Pitney during the 1960s before she concentrated to begin her solo career in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, she didn’t have notable success.

She began recording for Elektra Records, and it was where her struggles continued. Then after, Howard Harlan forwarded a song to Melba that he thought was perfect for her, “No Charge.” Melba recorded the song in early 1974 and was released April of the same year. By the end of May, Melba enjoyed her first success of being a solo artist, reaching No.1 on the Billboard’s Hot Country Singles Chart.

Howard Harlan commented on the record to Tom Roland in The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hit, saying: “I’ve never written a song that moves people so much. I’ve had guys tell me they almost wrecked their truck when they heard it ’cause it made them cry. I had a lot of delightful records in many different languages on that song, but I guess that’s probably my favorite song as far as impact is concerned.”

About the Song

The song is about a young boy who hands his mother an itemized list of charges he says he’s owed for performing various chores and comes to collect. The singer performs this in spoken word. The mother responds (singing) by reminding her son about all the things she’s done for him, that she never asked him to pay for services rendered and that, all things considered, “the cost of real love is no charge.”

Enlightened, the young boy realizes that his mother is right and changes the amount due to “paid in full” before the singer sings the moral. “No Charge” was one of the few songs that talked about motherhood during this time, which might be one of the reasons why it was so popular.

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