Craig Morgan had a successful career as a member of the U.S. Army before leaving the armed forces to focus on music. Since releasing his eponymous debut record in 2000, Morgan has dropped eight studio albums and charted 15 Top 20 singles. His material covers everything from heartache to fun in the country sun.
Which of Morgan's tunes are his very best, though? The following are The Boot's picks for his Top 10.
"Something to Write Home About"From: 'Craig Morgan' (2000)
"Something to Write Home About" was Morgan's debut single, and became a Top 40 hit. Co-written by Morgan, the song was perhaps an ode back to his days in the Army, when writing letters was his only way of communicating with his family: "She's got long blond hair and deep blue eyes / She likes her music loud and walkin' in the moonlight / She laughs sometimes, sometimes until she cries / Oh, Mom, I'm in love, and Dad, I'm sure you'd be proud / 'Cause I finally got me something to write home about." The song was an early indicator of Morgan's ability to tell a compelling story in three and a half minutes.
"Redneck Yacht Club"From: 'My Kind of Livin'" (2005)
"Redneck Yacht Club" became a rallying cry for rednecks everywhere. One of only four songs on the 12-track album My Kind of Livin' that Morgan didn't write, the song is a humorous yet true-to-life spin on how people in the country celebrate the summer season: "Side by side, there's five houseboat front porches / Astro turf, lawn chairs and tiki torches / Regular joes rockin' the boat, that's us." And Morgan says that the song was meant to be uplifting, not derogatory.
"I think ["redneck"] used to be considered a derogatory term, but not anymore," he tells USA Today. "Now it's considered more of a lifestyle than anything."
"Tough"From 'Little Bit of Life' (2006)
"Tough" endeared Morgan to women all over the country with its heartfelt lyrics about their tenacity and hard work. The song starts out by saying, "She's in the kitchen at the crack of dawn / Bacon's on, coffee's strong / Kids running wild, taking off their clothes / If she's a nervous wreck, well, it never shows," but it's the second verse that applauds the bravery of women battling breast cancer: "She wore that wig to church / Pink ribbon pinned there on her shirt / No room for fear, full of faith / Hands held high singing "Amazing Grace" / Never once complained, refusing to give up / And I thought I was tough." The song's accompanying music video, which shows Morgan narrating the story that the song plays out, helped propel "Tough" into the Top 15.
"Little Bit of Life"From: 'Little Bit of Life' (2006)
A radio-friendly, uptempo hit that advocates for the things that make up his life -- "a little bit of guitar, a little bit of truck" and "a little bit of sugar, a little bit of spice / A little bit of nasty, a little bit of nice," for example -- "Little Bit of Life" was Morgan's fourth Top 10 hit. Morgan still often plays the song near the start of his shows to help energize the crowds.
"When I'm Gone"From: 'A Whole Lot More to Me' (2016)
Morgan didn't pen "When I'm Gone," but it's a song he sadly could have written, and one that took on a much deeper meaning after the tragic death of his 19-year-old son Jerry in a water-tubing accident. The uptempo song, which begins with, "My last breath / I wanna take with a smile / And no regrets / No hope of turnin' back that dial / Let the story I've written / Be somethin' worth leavin' behind," is a poignant reminder to live each day to the fullest.
"Wake Up Lovin' You"From: 'The Journey (Livin' Hits)' (2013)
Written by Matt Ramsey, Josh Osborne and Trevor Rosen, this heartbreak-filled song -- which says, in part, "Pretty blonde girl at the end of the bar / Buys a drink, gives a wink, and then it goes too far / We're out on the dance floor feelin' the gin / I finally start coming alive again / I take her home for the night / And everything is right until the first ray of sunlight / And damn if I don't wake up lovin' you" -- was what Morgan calls the song of his career.
"This was a song that I felt like had enough of the things that people expect from Craig Morgan, while at the same time, it went somewhere else, where people could see a side of me that they might not have been able to see before," Morgan tells The Boot. "So it allows me to grow.”
Still, Ramsey admits that it was tough to see another artist have this tune land on the charts.
"When the opportunity for Craig to cut it came along, it was a big decision point and really hard to decide what we should do," he shares. "Ultimately, when an artist like that decides that they want to cut your song, you kind of have to let them."
"Bonfire"From: 'That's Why' (2008)
"Bonfire" didn't make it onto the original release of That's Why, Morgan's only album on BNA Records, but after he saw fans' reactions to the tune, which promoted late-night parties out in the backwoods, the singer convinced his label to do a re-issue of the record and include the song.
"I'm most grateful to the fans because they allow me to do what I do, and 'Bonfire' is the kind of song I love to do," Morgan explains (quote via Songfacts). "It's the kind of music that I am. I write and sing about the little things, the simple things, the everyday stuff. That's what this song is about -- it's everyday stuff that people do."
"That's What I Love About Sunday"From: 'My Kind of Livin'' (2005)
"That's What I Love About Sunday" lists everything that is good about the first day of the week, from "Have some chicken and some baked beans / Pick a backyard football team" to "Cat-napping on the porch swing / You curled up next to me / The smell of jasmine wakes us up / Take a walk down a back road / Tackle box and a cane pole." The song is the only No. 1 song of Morgan's career so far.
"Almost Home"From: 'I Love It' (2003)
Written by Morgan and Kerry Kurt Phillips, "Almost Home" started with an idea about a businessman who was dreaming on a flight; the men eventually landed on the idea of the song being about a homeless man. With lyrics such as, "I was walkin' down an old dirt road / Past a field of hay that had just been mowed / Man I wish you'd just left me alone / 'Cause I was almost home," the tune was Morgan's first Top 10 single and earned him a Song of the Year award by BMI.
"The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost"From: 'God, Family, Country' (2020)
There's simply no other track that could sit in this top spot. Morgan's pain and grief are palpable in "The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost," the exceptionally personal song he wrote and produced solo after the death of his 19-year-old son Jerry in 2016.
"I know my boy ain't here, but he ain't gone," sings Morgan, laying his emotions out for listeners and explaining how his faith has gotten him through the hardest event of his life. "I won't completely heal 'til I go home," he admits, but while he's still here on Earth, Morgan knows Jerry is always with him.
"In the mornings, I wake up, give her a kiss, head to the kitchen / Pour a cup of wake me up and try to rouse up some ambition / Go outside, sit by myself, but I ain't alone / I've got the Father, my son and the Holy Ghost," Morgan sings in the chorus.
"As difficult as this song was to write and as difficult as it is to sing, it gives me strength in my faith in God," Morgan says of "The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost." "My hope is it does the same for others.”