Discussion:
The Number Ones: Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry”
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Bob Roman
2018-11-30 20:11:21 UTC
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A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Brenda Lee – “I’m Sorry”
HIT #1: July 18, 1960
STAYED AT #1: 3 weeks

It’s a good thing Brenda Lee was born when she was. If Brenda Mae Tarpley had been a teenager now, rather than in 1960, she probably would’ve become a contestant on America’s Got Talent, and that would’ve been the end of it. There’s a novelty appeal to Lee’s talent. She was an absolutely tiny prodigy; at 4’9″, she was short enough to qualify as a little person. And when she recorded “I’m Sorry,” she was only 15, but she’d already been supporting her desperately poor Georgia family by singing ever since her father had died seven years earlier. Still, there was more to Lee than pure novelty. And thanks in part to when she was born, that novelty appeal and that talent were enough to make her one of the dominant pop stars of her era.

Brenda Lee started out singing on local radio, moving on eventually to early TV variety shows. Two years before “I’m Sorry,” she’d recorded “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” an eventual holiday standard which would end up as the biggest-selling single of her career. But “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” didn’t really hit until “I’m Sorry” had come out, and “I’m Sorry” remains the song probably most associated with Brenda Lee. It is not, however, the best.

“I’m Sorry” is an early example of the Nashville countrypolitan style, with its sugary backing vocals and its sighing strings. The soft drama of that arrangement served the song nicely. But it’s really not that much of a song. It’s a simplistic weeper about playing around with other people’s feelings, and it doesn’t really have anything to say about the subject. If you aren’t in the right mood, the central hook can get irritating. But what really makes the song work is Lee herself.

When she really let loose, Brenda Lee had an absolute hurricane of a voice. On “I’m Sorry” she toggles back and forth between quiet reserve and reckless passion in a way that deftly reflects the mindset of someone trying hard to cope with sadness. It’s a virtuosic and strikingly mature performance, and it really showcases that voice. Later on, Lee would get a chance to use those gifts on truly great songs like “Everybody Loves Me But You” and “The End Of The World.” With “I’m Sorry,” she merely got a pretty good one.

GRADE: 6/10
SavoyBG
2018-11-30 20:21:21 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
truly great songs like “Everybody Loves Me But You” and “The End Of The World.”
Huh?

This guy really has a strange idea of a "great song."
Jim Colegrove
2018-11-30 22:35:22 UTC
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Post by SavoyBG
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
truly great songs like “Everybody Loves Me But You” and “The End Of The World.”
Huh?
This guy really has a strange idea of a "great song."
Strange pretty well describes this person.
Dean F.
2018-12-01 00:27:21 UTC
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Post by SavoyBG
Post by Bob Roman
truly great songs like “Everybody Loves Me But You” and “The End Of The World.”
Huh?
This guy really has a strange idea of a "great song."
Besides, the hit version of "End of the World" was by Skeeter Davis.
SavoyBG
2018-12-01 00:34:43 UTC
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Post by Dean F.
Post by SavoyBG
Post by Bob Roman
truly great songs like “Everybody Loves Me But You” and “The End Of The
World.”
Huh?
This guy really has a strange idea of a "great song."
Besides, the hit version of "End of the World" was by Skeeter Davis.
That's not really relevant here. He's claiming that it's a "great song," not that any particular version is a "great record."
Mark Dintenfass
2018-12-01 01:27:42 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1
in the Billboard Hot 100.
Brenda Lee ­ ³I¹m Sorry²
HIT #1: July 18, 1960
STAYED AT #1: 3 weeks
It¹s a good thing Brenda Lee was born when she was. If Brenda Mae Tarpley had
been a teenager now, rather than in 1960, she probably would¹ve become a
contestant on America¹s Got Talent, and that would¹ve been the end of it.
There¹s a novelty appeal to Lee¹s talent. She was an absolutely tiny prodigy;
at 4¹9?, she was short enough to qualify as a little person. And when she
recorded ³I¹m Sorry,² she was only 15, but she¹d already been supporting her
desperately poor Georgia family by singing ever since her father had died
seven years earlier. Still, there was more to Lee than pure novelty. And
thanks in part to when she was born, that novelty appeal and that talent were
enough to make her one of the dominant pop stars of her era.
Brenda Lee started out singing on local radio, moving on eventually to early
TV variety shows. Two years before ³I¹m Sorry,² she¹d recorded ³Rockin¹
Around The Christmas Tree,² an eventual holiday standard which would end up
as the biggest-selling single of her career. But ³Rockin¹ Around The
Christmas Tree² didn¹t really hit until ³I¹m Sorry² had come out, and ³I¹m
Sorry² remains the song probably most associated with Brenda Lee. It is not,
however, the best.
³I¹m Sorry² is an early example of the Nashville countrypolitan style, with
its sugary backing vocals and its sighing strings. The soft drama of that
arrangement served the song nicely. But it¹s really not that much of a song.
It¹s a simplistic weeper about playing around with other people¹s feelings,
and it doesn¹t really have anything to say about the subject. If you aren¹t
in the right mood, the central hook can get irritating. But what really makes
the song work is Lee herself.
When she really let loose, Brenda Lee had an absolute hurricane of a voice.
On ³I¹m Sorry² she toggles back and forth between quiet reserve and reckless
passion in a way that deftly reflects the mindset of someone trying hard to
cope with sadness. It¹s a virtuosic and strikingly mature performance, and it
really showcases that voice. Later on, Lee would get a chance to use those
gifts on truly great songs like ³Everybody Loves Me But You² and ³The End Of
The World.² With ³I¹m Sorry,² she merely got a pretty good one.
GRADE: 6/10
Breihan is too easy a target. "I'm Sorry" is far from my favorite
Brenda Lee record, but on a scale where "Alley Oop" is an eight, "I'm
Sorry" has to be an eleven. First of all, Brenda Lee was short, but she
doesn't need the PC brownie points of being called "a little person."
Second, the songs he calls "great," as Dean and Bruce have already
said, are far from great, and very far from Brenda Lee's best. (Does
he even know how many really fine records she made?) I was going to
write a rant about how people Breihan's age have had their musical
senses distorted by a few decades of judging songs through politics and
singing through those tv song contest shows in which big-voiced but
soulless budding "divas" triumph over poor schnooks with no talent at
all.

Brenda Lee was a great pop singer, a great country singer, and a great
r'n'r singer. How many singers can you say that about?
--
--md
_________
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Dennis C
2018-12-01 01:34:20 UTC
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Taylor by god Swift,baby!!!!
Roger Ford
2018-12-01 07:44:05 UTC
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On Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:11:21 -0800 (PST), Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit =
#1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Brenda Lee =E2=80=93 =E2=80=9CI=E2=80=99m Sorry=E2=80=9D
HIT #1: July 18, 1960
STAYED AT #1: 3 weeks
Here's a 15 year old Brenda Lee with her most powerful ballad up to
that time (and actually held back by Decca for fear that the public
would not accept such a big voiced performance from someone so young.
Even when finally bowing and preparing for its release they initially
intended the rockin' "That's All You Gotta Do"---recorded the day
before "I'm Sorry"**---to be the "A" side)

"I'm Sorry" gets a 7 from me and became her biggest ever chart
hit----#1 on the Hot Hundred and a stay on the chart of 23 weeks. It
didn't do nearly as well on the UK chart here only reaching #14
(earlier "Sweet Nothin's" had been a #6 hit in Britain).

**Incidentally its not often mentioned that her other later 1960 #1
hit "I Want To Be Wanted" was actually first attempted BEFORE she
recorded "I'm Sorry"---and was recorded,like "That's All You Gotta
Do",on the first day of the two day session (March 27 1960). With
different lyrics this version lay unissued for decades



Here's how "I'm Sorry" did in the 1960 Singles Battle

R1
24 Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry - Decca 31093
4 The O'Jays - Miracles - Daco
R2
6 Frankie Ford - You Talk Too Much - Imperial 5686
27 Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry - Decca 31093
R3
8 The Drifters - Suddenly There's A Valley - Atlantic 2087
26 Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry - Decca 31093
R4
27 Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry - Decca 31093
8 Fats Domino - Don't Come Knockin' - Imperial 5675
R5
13 Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry - Decca 31093
20 Brook Benton & Dinah Washington - A Rockin' Good Way - Mercury 71565
ROGER FORD
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