In 1981, country-rock singer Juice Newton released her rendition of “Queen of Hearts” as the second single off her album Juice.
“I did [‘Queen of Hearts’] live for about a year…Then I brought it to [producer] Richard Landis when we started the Juice album,” Newton later recalled. “He wasn’t convinced at that point that it was a breakout song, but I told him I think this is a real cool song … so we cut it.”
And the singer proved herself right! Her version reached No. 2 both on Billboard Adult Contemporary and on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for two weeks. It also peaked at No. 15 on Billboard Hot Country Songs, making Newton’s “Queen of Hearts” the highest-profile rendition.
But the song’s success did not stop in the United States. “Queen of Hearts” is actually Newton’s second-biggest international hit, securing Top Ten chart positions in Canada, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, and South Africa. Newton also earned a Best Female Vocalist, Country, and Western category nomination during the 1982 Grammy Awards.
Sixteen years later, Newton once again recorded “Queen of Hearts” for her album The Trouble With Angels.
The Story Behind The Song
“Queen of Hearts” was written by Hank DeVito, who was primarily known for his pedal steel guitar work for The Hot Band, Emmylou Harris’ backing group. The song tells the tale of a woman who fell in love with an unreliable lover. Though she knows it’s a bad move, it’s already impossible for her to resist it.
It used gambling metaphors to represent this.
“You’re just a heartache in disguise. Won’t you keep my heart from breakin’ if it’s only for a very short time. Playin’ with the Queen of Hearts. Knowin’ it ain’t really smart. The Joker ain’t the only fool. Who’ll do anythin’ for you. Layin’ out another lie,” the song goes.
Welsh singer Dave Edmunds was the first artist to record “Queen of Hearts” for his album Repeat When Necessary in 1979. However, it was never released in the United States as his label refused to do so, but it peaked at No. 11 in the United Kingdom.
Just two years later, Edmunds had to watch as Newton enjoyed the biggest success in America with “Queen of Hearts.” Edmunds had also claimed that Newton stole his composition: “She did pinch my arrangement, note for note, but I’m not angry with that,” he said.
You can listen to “Queen of Hearts” in the video below.