Wanda Jackson’s music career started in 1953 and continued until 2021. Over that time, she released almost a hundred albums. That should make it very clear that Jackson has a huge fan base because musicians don’t get to release that much material without people willing to listen to them. Specifically, she is famous for being the Queen of Rockabilly. Someone who was not just one of the first women to have a country career but also one of the first women to have a rock and roll career. On top of that, Jackson started focusing on gospel music when she re-discovered her faith in 1971. Put together, it makes sense for Jackson to have a lot of songs worth listening to.
Top 10 Wanda Jackson Songs
#10 – Fujiyama Mama
For lack of a better word, “Fujiyama Mama” is strange. Fujiyama refers to Mount Fuji, the most famous mountain in Japan by a considerable margin. Here, the singer uses it as a metaphor for her power, presence, and dynamism because Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano. However, what makes “Fujiyama Mama” even more memorable is the singer comparing herself to the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to convey much of the same meaning. The song received minimal play in the United States, though that wasn’t because of the nuclear bomb reference so much as a woman singing sexually-charged lyrics.
Strangely, it became a huge hit in Japan. There, “Fujiyama Mama” reached the number one position before holding it for six months. That was particularly notable because it was the first rock and roll song to do so in that country. Much ink has been spilled on why “Fujiyama Mama” became so successful in Japan. One line of thought is that it appealed to Japanese women seeking female empowerment after the Second World War.
#9 – In the Middle of a Heartache
Jackson released “In the Middle of a Heartache” in 1961. Subsequently, it became the last of her songs to reach the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song makes it clear that the singer hasn’t gotten over her last relationship but is already in a new one. That might not have been the wisest choice, but that is precisely why it makes for great drama.
#8 – Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Meanwhile, “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down” sees Jackson taking a different attitude about a former relationship. In this case, the viewpoint character has been abandoned by her lover, who has moved on to more glorious and glamorous things. She hasn’t given up on him. Instead, she believes that he will remain the same individual he always was, meaning that he will one day tire of his new circle and they will tire of him. When that happens, the viewpoint character wants him to reunite with her, thus explaining the title of the song. There is no indication of how this plan will work out, which to be fair, does make it more interesting because of the ambiguous ending.
#7 – You Can’t Have My Love
“You Can’t Have My Love” was Jackson’s first song to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. She recorded it when she was still young, so much so she was still in high school at the time. “You Can’t Have My Love” is surprisingly enjoyable even though Jackson sang it at a much less experienced point in her life.
#6 – Thunder On the Mountain
“Thunder On the Mountain” is a Bob Dylan song from his 2006 studio album Modern Times. As the story goes, Jack White wanted Jackson to cover one of Dylan’s songs. As a result, he called the man to ask his opinion on which of his songs would be the best choice for that. Dylan’s immediate answer was “Thunder On the Mountain,” thus resulting in the cover that exists today. Besides this, White also served as the producer plus the lead guitarist on the cover.
#5 – Tears Will Be the Chaser For Your Wine
Jackson has released some very self-assertive songs. For instance, “Tears Will Be the Chaser For Your Wine” is set at the moment when the singer’s lover is about to abandon her. She isn’t sad. No, she is furious. The song is a clear statement that the lover will regret the decision. Furthermore, it will be too late for him to come back when he realizes that.
#4 – Mean Mean Man
In “Mean Mean Man,” Jackson sings about a relationship with someone less than ideal. None of the lover’s faults are particularly grievous. For example, he isn’t cheating on her. Similarly, he isn’t lying to her. Still, the song makes it very clear that the lover is a selfish, inconsiderate individual, which supports the singer’s claim that the relationship is doomed to fail. Even so, the singer wants to keep it going as long as possible, thus making it clear there is an element of attraction there.
#3 – Right or Wrong
Jackson released several rock and roll singles in the late 1950s. Then, she had a country music comeback with “Right and Wrong” in 1961. It was quite a hit at the time, as shown by how it reached the number 29 position on the Billboard Hot 100 and the number 9 position on the Billboard Hot Country Songs.
#2 – Let’s Have a Party
“Let’s Have a Party” isn’t the most complicated of songs. Granted, its idea of a party doesn’t quite line up with contemporary notions. Still, it is impossible to misunderstand what the song is all about. For that matter, it is hard to resist being swept away by its infectious energy because it is just such a joyful thing.
#1 – I Gotta Know
Music is always a product of its times. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to decipher every layer of meaning when the cultural context has undergone a few decades of change. Here, Jackson used “I Gotta Know” to parody contemporary hits from male singers that either boasted much or painted a romantic picture without providing much substance. Nowadays, the idea of a couple having a loving relationship without getting married is a non-issue. The same was very much not true in the mid-1950s. Thanks to that, the song’s question of why the lover just wants to dance without taking a further step was much more piercing in those times than it is now.
Top 10 Wanda Jackson Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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