The Story Behind The Song: “How Can I Unlove You”


For “How Can I Unlove You,” Glen Sutton, Lynn’s husband as well as her producer, brought in well-known arranger Cam Mullins (noted for his contributions to several of Ray Price’s best-remembered hits including “Danny Boy” and “For The Good Times”) to work up an ambitious ensemble of strings to give the record extra sparkle. The result was the most spectacular string arrangement to reach number one on a country record up to that time when “How Can I Unlove You” reached the pinnacle of Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart on October 16, 1971, holding that position for three weeks.


“How Can I Unlove You” also showed a decent finish on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart, topping out at #63. Anderson believed that Mullins’ lush string arrangement helped in that effort, causing this and many more records by country artists like Price, Anne Murray, Sammi Smith and others to cross over to the pop chart. At that time the general feeling was that the strings made the difference between a country record and a pop record.

Although “How Can I Unlove You” wasn’t as strong of a pop hit as “Rose Garden” was (“Rose Garden” had sailed all the way to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100), Lynn continued to make great strides in country music. She had won the Academy of Country Music’s trophy for Top Female Vocalist earlier in the year (based on the massive strength of “Rose Garden”), and she also picked up the same award from the Country Music Association while “How Can I Unlove You” was sitting at number one.

Unfortunately, none of Anderson’s three follow-up singles in 1972 achieved the top spot. Lynn’s cover of Johnnie Ray’s 1951 pop classic, “Cry,” stopped at #3, while “Listen To A Country Song” and “Fool Me” both peaked at #4. Anderson did go on to log two more Billboard number ones: 1973’s “Keep Me In Mind” (arguably her best work) and 1974’s “What A Man My Man Is.”

One of Glenn Sutton’s compositions was “There’s A Party Goin’ On,” a Top Five hit in 1972 for one of Anderson’s label mates, and Sutton points to that success as an example of the type of problem he and Lynn often faced in their marriage. Anderson was upset that she didn’t get first crack at “There’s A Party Goin’ On,” which Glenn co-wrote with Billy Sherrill.

Billy was producing Jody Miller at the time and gave the song to her, which proved to be a very big record for Jody. This made Lynn angry with Glenn, who responded, “Look, it’s Billy Sherrill’s artist, he cut it on her. I wrote it with him, there’s nothing I can do!” This unusual type of spat happened occasionally right up to their divorce in 1977.

>>READ ALSO: Remembering The Death of Lynn Anderson, Whose Powerful, Husky Voice Brought Her Atop The Charts

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