3 Country Ballads That Still Bring Reba McEntire to Tears

When Ruby Leigh sang Reba McEntire‘s 1990 ballad “You Lie” during season 24 of The Voice, she brought her coach to tears. During season 25, McEntire teared up again when contestant William Alexander shared an emotional performance of Lizzy McAlpine’s “Ceilings,” which he dedicated to his grandfather.

Throughout her career, Reba McEntire has never shied away from showing her real emotions, whether it’s a moving performance on The Voice to her CMT Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and other honors, or while performing some of her heartbreaking songs.

The country icon has also made herself cry while performing “Lots of times,” she revealed in a 2024 interview, “over many, many years.”

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Singer Reba McEntire onstage during the Country Music Television’s CMT Giants honoring Reba McEntire at the Kodak Theatre on October 26, 2006 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

When it comes to the songs that make McEntire break down the most, she shared the three ballads that still bring her to tears.

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1. “Somebody Should Leave” (1984)

“‘Somebody Should Leave’ is the one song I would always just break up and cry,” revealed McEntire. “I mean it was a very sad song—still is.”

Written by Harlan Howard and Chick Rains, “Somebody Should Leave” appeared on McEntire’s eighth album My Kind of Country, and tells the story of a woman in a loveless marriage and the realization that it’s time for one of them to leave, while taking their children into consideration.

It sure gets quiet
When the kids go to bed
We sit here in silence
Putting off what must be said
I read a book, you watch TV
As our love dies quietly
I’m so sad I don’t know what I just read

Somebody should leave
But which one should it be
You need the kids and they need me
Somebody should leave
But we hate to give in
We keep hoping somehow we might need each other again

You say goodnight and turn and face the wall
We lie here in the darkness and the tears start to fall
If it was only you and me, goodbye might come more easily
But what about those babies down the hall

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“Somebody Should Leave” marked McEntire’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart following her first chart toppers “Can’t Even Get the Blues” and “You’re the First Time I Thought About Leaving” from her 1982 album Unlimited. My Kind of Country also peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.

2. “The Greatest Man I Ever Knew” (1991)

Months after the tragic plane crash killed seven members of her band and her longtime tour manager Jim Hammon in March 1991, McEntire was close to ending her music career. By the end of that year, she pulled together another album dedicated to her lost crew, For My Broken Heart.

On the album, which went to No. 3 on the Country chart, McEntire earned two more No. 1s with the title track and “Is There Life Out There.” The stirring “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” also went to No. 3. Songwriter Richard Leigh, who co-wrote the ballad with Layng Martine Jr., originally wrote the song about his father, which he handed to McEntire to translate.

“I guess the one that got me more than anything was ‘The Greatest Man I Ever Knew,'” shared McEntire on the song that still gets to her the most.

The greatest man I never knew
Lived just down the hall
And every day we said, “Hello”
But never touched at all
He was in his paper
I was in my room
How was I to know he thought I hung the moon?

The greatest man I never knew
Came home late every night
He never had too much to say
Too much was on his mind
I never really knew him
Oh, and now it seems so sad
Everything he gave to us, took all he had

Then the days turned into years
And the memories to black and white
He grew cold like an old winter wind
Blowing across my life

[RELATED: Remember When: Reba McEntire Lost 7 Members of Her Band and Her Tour Manager in a Plane Crash]

3. “She Thinks His Name Was John” (1994)

“‘She Thinks His Name Was John’ is another one that always got me,” revealed McEntire. Released on her 19th album, Read My Mind, “She Thinks His Name Was John” was written by Sandy Knox and Steve Rosen and is the story of a woman dying from AIDS.

When first released the song gained some controversy for its subject matter, and a woman recounting a one-night stand that led to her contracting the disease. Knox was inspired to write the song after losing her brother to AIDS.

She can account for all of the men in her past
Where they are now, who they married, how many kids they have
She knew their backgrounds, family and friends
A few she even talks to now and then

But there is one
She can’t put her finger on
There is one who never leaves her thoughts
And she thinks
His name was John

A chance meeting, a party a few years back
Broad shoulders and blue eyes, his hair was so black
He was a friend of a friend you could say
She let his smile just sweep her awa

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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