People love it when I sing Charlie Rich at karaoke. And 4 whiskeys in I always oblige. My go to number: Behind Closed Doors, the song that took Charlie from a struggling rockabilly artist to the Countrypolitan life and the Billboard Top 20. And he did this in his 40s, garnering the nickname he’d have for the rest of his life: the Silver Fox. Of course, I can’t do this Kenny O’Dell-penned tune justice like Charlie. Mostly because it’s hard to play those jazzy country licks on the piano with a drink in my hand. And karaoke doesn’t require it. But if it did, I still never capture that easygoing vocal that won a couple of Grammys as well as the CMA single & song of the year back in 1973. Oh, Charlie was the man and all it took was one song, 13 years after his first Top 40 hit, Lonely Weekends.
Many Rich fans thought they’d be losing good ol’ Arkansas Charlie to the city life of Nashville. Yes, that was a concern. Could he keep his old fans and expand his base to get new ones. I think the fact that he sold 2 million copies of this single and it ranks as the #9 country single of all time, based on Country Music Television’s, 100 Greatest Country songs of All Time should settle that. But it’s the performance that truly matters.
When the record drops and those three chords are played high up on the piano, every couple in the honky-tonk, at a wedding or a prom rushed onto the dance floor, so that they could stare into each other eyes in time for when Charlie sings:
My baby makes me proud, Lord don’t she make me proud
And what makes Charlie proud is that his lady keeps it cool, plays her cards close to the chest, especially when she’s around other folks. She’s always a lady, but just one times a lady. [Lionel Richie gets the women that are three times.] Cause people like to talk trash, and she doesn’t give them anything to talk about. But when the lights go off and doors are closed, she’s a super freak. She lets her down and reminds Charlie of his manhood. And there’s where he stops, cause he’s a gentlemen. Many people have speculated, few have wondered, but no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. I know when Congress closes their doors, it feels like their having sex with me.