Battle of the Bands: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

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It’s time for another Battle of the Bands and today I’m featuring the southern gothic song “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” Listen to both versions and vote which one you like the best: I’ll be posting the results in 6 days!

“The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” is a song written in 1972 by songwriter Bobby Russell and sung by Vicki Lawrence, an American singer, actress, and comedian. Lawrence’s version, from her 1973 Bell Records album of the same name, was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 after its release.

Although Bobby Russell wrote both the lyrics and music for the song, he was reluctant to record even a demonstration because he “didn’t like it.” According to Lawrence, who was married to Russell at the time, she believed it was destined to be successful and recorded the demo herself. The publishers and the record label did not quite know how to pitch the song, as it was not really a country or a pop song. The first thought was to offer the song to actress/singer Liza Minnelli, but eventually it was offered to singer Cher, but her then-husband and manager Sonny Bono reportedly refused it, as he was said to be concerned that the song might offend Cher’s southern fans. Without a singer to record the song, Lawrence went into a studio and recorded it professionally herself, with the instrumental backing of L.A. session musicians from the Wrecking Crew, then pressed the label to release it as a single.

Released as a single in June 1972, the song would ultimately become a number-one success for Lawrence, topping the Hot 100 chart in early 1973.

 

It’s not always popular to pit an original versus a cover in these Battle of the Bands but I’m going to do it anyway here because I think both versions are very good. But you be the judge: which one do you like best?

Contender #1:  Vicki Lawrence 1972

 

Contender #2:  Reba McEntire 1991

During 1991, the song was sung as a cover version by Reba McEntire on her album For My Broken Heart. It reached number 12 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. While still a commercially successful release, this broke a string of 24 consecutive top 10 country singles by McEntire.

 

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? And when you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

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28 thoughts on “Battle of the Bands: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

  1. I love this song! Thanks for the memories, Michele. Haven’t heard it in years. Reba’s version was a revelation! She has a better voice than Vicki Lawrence; it’s fuller and more fused with emotion. Please give my vote to Reba.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Debbie, thanks for stopping by! The first vote of the day going to Reba. Glad the song brought back memories for you. That’s what I love about music…
      Thanks for your vote 🙂

      Like

  2. I like good story telling songs and I’ve always thought this was a pretty good one that was nicely constructed. The Lawrence version is definitely a good one, but it’s not definitive. I’m a Reba fan and I’ll give my vote to Reba.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Michele!

    I haven’t heard this song in many years. I remember it making a big splash when Vicki released it in the early 70s. I love the back story you provided. It goes to show that sometimes, when you believe strongly in something, are passionate about it, trust your gut and persevere, you can do something the doubters thought you couldn’t. Vicki’s version is definitive. I can’t imagine it being sung by Liza Minnelli. The song would have worked well for Cher, I believe, and I wish she would have recorded it. Reba’s cover doesn’t bring anything new to the table and doesn’t grab me as much as Vicki’s original. Therefore I am giving my vote to Vicki Lawrence.

    Thank you, dear friend Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, finally, a vote for the original! I’m glad that Vicki is getting a vote here. I admire her perseverance in getting this song produced…and what a treat taking it to Number 1!
      Thanks for your comments Shady…and for your vote. Much appreciated.

      Like

  4. Geez, I remember when this song came out and thinking, “Oh great, another slap on the South.” But I got over the attitude, and later saw, and enjoyed Reba McEntire in concert. She is one spunky entertainer!

    My vote is for Reba!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I almost feel badly for Vicki Lawrence in this battle. She’s a tremendous performer, wonderful comedienne, great game show contestant, and quite attractive, and her version was super. Having said that, Reba’s was just a little super-er. She really had the voice for this, and so, in this battle of gorgeous redheads, Reba gets my vote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’m surprised that Vicki isn’t getting more votes. Reba racks up yet another vote with yours. Thanks for coming by John.

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  6. I realize I’m going to be in the minority here, but I’m going to give my vote to Vicki Lawrence. This song is hers, Reba has more than enough. Yes, I do like Reba’s version, but I have to give credit to Vicki, the original voice behind the song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that sentiment Jeffrey! Indeed, Vicki deserves some serious recognition. Thanks for your vote, cast and counted for Vicki…

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  7. One of my very favorite songs to sing! (in the privacy of my own shower, of course) I remember when Vicki performed it on a variety show (not sure if it was her show, or someone elses) but she was sitting on a spiral staircase. i was so impressed with her song then.

    But then Reba came along, and she sang her little heart out. I remember falling in love with the song all over again.

    I am inclined to do a split vote here, but I know that’s like taking the easy way out and essentially not-voting. Therefore, I have to make a difficult decision.

    I am going to give my vote to Reba.

    Great battle, Michele!

    Mary
    Jingle Jangle Jungle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you like my battle Mary! And so glad your a fan of the song. I know it’s going to be a toss-up for me. I can understand your wanting to split the vote. We’ve got another vote cast for Reba. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I thought, of course, I would vote for Vicki Lawrence. That’s the version I loved and sang along to as a kid. Then I listened to Reba and fell in love with her sound, especially her articulate pronunciation of the words and the emotion in her voice. It’s polished without having a slick studio sound. Very good battle, Michele.

    Love,
    Janie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janie. Another vote for Reba.
      How’s the migraine? Hope by now it’s gone and you’re feeling better…

      Like

  9. MICHELE ~
    Ahh, great song! Very interesting backstory you provided, none of which I knew. Worse yet, I never had the slightest inkling that it was Vicki Lawrence singing the original!! I loved watching Vicki Lawrence work with Carol Burnett. They had wonderful chemistry. (The only skit I never liked was ‘Mama’s Family’. Too much yelling. If I wanted to hear a family yelling, all I had to do was stay home and hang around for a few minutes. Ha!)

    Yeah, I like Vicki Lawrence. She was kind of sexy in some understated kind of way.

    The Battle: Well, I love some Country music and musicians but I’m pretty dern selective about it. (By now, everyone knows I loves me some Waylon & Willie, and Bocephus, too!) But… Reba McEntire… never been a fan. Yep, she’s got a strong, powerful voice for sure, but I’ve always felt she had a persistent tendency to “OVERSING” almost everything. She’s like the Whitney Houston of Country music (only not quite as guilty of oversinging as Whitney was).

    Reba does this song well, and I can see why everyone’s raving about it. However, she’s laying on that Southern twang a little too heavy for my taste; she’s laying on the vocal acrobatics just a shade too sweaty for my taste, also. It’s good, but sometimes subtlety plays better; it works more effectively in some cases. You know, the ol’ “less is more”. (There’s a heckuvalotta truth to be found in that statement frequently.) And, to me, this is one of those times when I think “slightly understated” gets the job done better. (I listened to Vicki a second time, just to make sure I was sure.)

    Vote: VICKI

    ~ D-FensDogG
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, on your comment about the Mama’s Family skits. I hear ya. That was funny.

      Thanks for your explanation on your choice. I’m glad Vicki is getting your vote. That girl had some spunk!

      Have a great weekend Stephen.

      Like

  10. This song made a strong impression on me as a kid. I first heard it when I was seven or eight. We lived close to my mom’s best friend’s family. Her daughter was about five years older than I was (possibly more) and had quite a few records. We’d often play records when our parents got together. She had this one. I loved this song. But, it freaked me out. I don’t think I really got all of the nuance of what was going on in the song, but I did understand the bigger meaning. Anyway, we’d usually drive home at night and (don’t ask my why), but I’d pull my feet up and hug them to me because I didn’t want them dangling there in the dark where I couldn’t see them (yep, because of that song). I remember when Reba came out with her version and everyone went wild for it, but I really liked Vicki Lawrence’s take on it. So, it will come as no surprise that I’m casting a vote for Vicki here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robin, that’s an interesting story about your relationship with this song. Thanks for sharing!
      Got your vote down for Vicki Lawrence.

      Like

  11. I have to say that Reba sounded great and not as country as I thought she would but there is something about Vicki that I love…aside from being multi-talented, she put her all in this and it shows so she gets my vote

    Liked by 1 person

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