The First Duet by Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias That Frank Sinatra Turned Down, “To All the Girls I Loved Before”

By the early ’70s, Albert Hammond and Hal David had envisioned, and written, the perfect song for Frank Sinatra, talking to past lovers who were now someone else’s wife: “To All the Girls I Loved Before.” When Sinatra turned it down, Hammond recorded the ballad for his 1975 album 99 Miles From L.A. Bobby Vinton later covered it but had little chart movement. Nearly a decade after its original release, “To All the Girls I Loved Before” was a No. 1 hit as a duet by the unlikely duo of Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson.

The odd pairing of the country outlaw and Latin crooner came together after Nelson heard Iglesias on the radio in London with his then-wife Connie. “I liked his music immediately,” recalled Nelson in The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits from 1991. “Connie suggested I record with him, and I thought it was a good idea. Julio said he’d like to do a song with me. I didn’t know Julio was selling more records at that time than anybody in the world.”

Their first of two duets together was a success and earned Iglesias and Nelson a CMA for Vocal Duo of the Year in 1984, along with an ACM for Single of the Year. The lead single from Iglesias’ 1984 album 1100 Bel Air Place, “To All the Girls I Loved Before” became a crossover hit for both artists, when it went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Country chart. 

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Photo of Julio Iglesias (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)

‘I’m Glad They Came Along’

The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a man praising all the women he ever loved, those who contributed to his growth, and the man he became today.

To all the girls I’ve loved before
Who traveled in and out my door
I’m glad they came along
I dedicate this song
To all the girls I’ve loved before

To all the girls I once caressed
And may I say, I’ve held the best
For helping me to grow, I owe a lot, I know
To all the girls I’ve loved before

The winds of change are always blowing
And every time I tried to stay
The winds of change continued blowing
And they just carried me away

To all the girls who shared my life
Who now are someone else’s wife
I’m glad they came along
I dedicate this song
To all the girls I’ve loved before

Albert Hammond

Hammond, who was already writing and producing songs for 1100 Bel Air Place, first suggested Iglesias record the love song he had released years earlier. “When Julio asked me to produce his record in 1983, I thought this song would be perfect for him,” said Hammond in a 2012 interview. “I sang the song to him with my guitar and told him it was a new song. He fell in love with it.”

“To All the Girls I Loved Before” was another notch on the belt for Hammond, whose career spanned hits for The Hollies (“The Air That I Breathe”), Starship with “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” and Leo Sayer’s 1977 No. 1 “When I Need You.” Along with longtime collaborator John Bettis, Hammond also co-wrote Whitney Houston’s 1988 hit One Moment in Time,” which won an Emmy and was used for the 1988 Summer Olympics, along with Diana Ross’ “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” from 1991. In 2024, the songwriting duo reunited on Hammond’s album Body of Work.

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Sinatra and Nelson

Though Sinatra initially turned down “To All the Girls I Loved Before,” by the early 1980s, he and Nelson formed a musical bond and friendship. The two starred in a series of NASA space research public service announcements after first connecting during a string of shows in Las Vegas in the early ’80s. Sinatra even opened for Nelson—who was already riding on his 1982 classic “Always on My Mind” and his hit duet with Iglesias—during a 1984 show at the Golden Nugget Casino in Vegas.

In 2018, Nelson also released a collection of covers of Sinatra classics on his album My Way, which won the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

Johnny Carson

On September 26, 1984, Julio Iglesias appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Together, Iglesias performed “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” with Carson, who was impersonating the red bandana-wearing Nelson.

“Spanish Eyes”

In 1988, Nelson and Iglesias reunited for another duet, a cover of “Spanish Eyes.” The standard was originally composed as an instrumental by German bandleader Bert Kaempfert as “Moon Over Naples” before Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder added lyrics and called it “Spanish Eyes.”

Before Nelson and Iglesias’ version, “Spanish Eyes” was recorded by Engelbert Humperdinck on his 1968 album A Man Without Love and was also performed by Wayne Newton, Elvis Presley, and Andy Williams. Faith No More also covered “Spanish Eyes” on their 1995 album King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime.

Released on Nelson’s 36th album What a Wonderful World, “Spanish Eyes” was another success for the duo, and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

Photo: Julio Iglesias (l) by David Redfern/Redferns; Willie Nelson performs onstage on February 13, 1979 (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images).

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