When Glen Campbell released “Southern Nights” forty-five years ago off the album of the same name, fans were straight away taken by the infectious country song.
With Campbell’s unique guitar lick, the song reached No. 1 on three different US charts: Hot Country Songs, Billboard Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary. It achieved the same success on the Canadian charts, snagging the top spot on RPM Top Singles and RPM Adult Contemporary. It also peaked at No. 2 on Canadian RPM Country Tracks.
The Story Behind The Iconic Country Hit
Written by Allen Toussaint, “Southern Nights” was inspired by his childhood memories of visiting relatives who lived in Louisiana’s backwoods. Toussaint remembered how they’d tell stories on the porch while looking into the deep, dark sky filled with stars.
“Southern nights, have you ever felt a southern night? Free as a breeze. Not to mention the trees whistling tunes that you know and love so. Southern nights, just as good even when closed your eyes. I apologize to anyone who can truly say that he has found a better way,” the song goes.
Toussaint originally recorded the song on his 1975 album of the same name. And out of the hundreds of songs he has written, “Southern Nights” is the one that he believes defined his remarkable career. “I really felt highly, highly inspired and very spiritual doing that song,” Toussaint said. “It’s the only one I felt that much about. Some others have been inspired highly, but not as high as that one.”
When Glen Campbell heard the song, it struck a personal chord with the singer. It reminded him of his growing-up years in Arkansas.
“My dad told me when I was a kid, ‘You’re having the best time of your life, and you don’t even know it.’ Sure enough, he was right,” Campbell said. “Now I really feel the need to go back home, float down the Missouri River, and fish for bass and crappies. It’s real, peaceful, and remote from things like telephones. My head is still there.”
After making a few changes, like adding full instrumentation as Toussaint’s original version only has two instruments and slightly modifying the lyrics, Campbell decided to record “Southern Nights.”
Campbell’s recording surprised Toussaint. He found it amazing that someone heard hit-potential in his song. “I love Glen’s version. I had never thought of it as an uptempo and mainstream song before,” he said. “I first heard it on the radio, and I was delighted. It was so good to hear it like that because I just hadn’t imagined that someone would listen closely enough to it to want to cover such a thing.”
Tune in and watch Glen Campbell’s breathtaking performance of “Southern Nights” in the video below.