The Story Behind The Song: “I Know How He Feels” Reba McEntire

Reba/Milwaukee journal sentinel

Beginning June 11, 1988, Reba McEntire spent eight weeks atop the Billboard country album chart with her 19th album simply called “Reba.” The album surprised many of her fans. It featured a re-make of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” and a version of the pop and jazz classic “Sunday Kind Of Love,” first popularized by Fran Warren in 1946 and followed by a successful cover by Jo Stafford in 1947. “Sunday Kind Of Love” was suggested to Reba by her personal publicist Jennifer Bohler, and surprisingly reached a decent #5 on Billboard’s country singles chart.


With Reba having already reached the pinnacle of country music, some fans feared that she might be “going pop.” Some stars do this, and a few have done it quite successfully. Reba, however, wanted to quell this rumor. She had no intention of “going pop,” and proved it with the second single from the “Reba” collection, “I Know How He Feels.”

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Writers Rick Bowles and Will Robinson originally wrote the song to be sung from a male’s point of view, calling it “I Know How She Feels.” The song as originally composed contained basically the same lyrics, although there were some different lines in the chorus and the second verse.


Two representatives from the song’s publishing company, Kevin Lamb and Cliff Williamson, played a demo of “I Know How She Feels” for Terry Skinner and J. L. Wallace, who were producing the Forrester Sisters at the time. They liked the song and asked if Robinson and Bowles could fashion a new set of lyrics for a female to sing.

The writers set about doing this, and once completed, they realized that it was a better female song. It just seemed to work better. Changing the title to “I Know How He Feels” and adjusting the lyrics for the gender change, the song was placed on hold for the Forrester Sisters, but for some reason they never got around to recording it. Then the song became earmarked for Judy Rodman, but that never materialized either. Finally, “I Know How He Feels” came to the attention of Reba McEntire.

Reba was quite taken with the song, but she had reservations about singing it because she had just gone through a divorce from her longtime husband Charlie Battles. Reba thought that listeners might interpret her performing the song as a reflection that she had regrets about the divorce, which she absolutely did not. This was a decision that she had thought long and hard about, and determined it to be the right thing to do. There was no turning back.

In the end, Reba decided to record “I Know How He Feels,” not because it was the way she felt about her divorce, but because she deemed it a great song, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was a hit.


Reba’s recording of “I Know How He Feels” featured an unusual production technique. There were no drums whatsoever through the first verse and first chorus, although the arrangement grew as the record progressed. “I Know How He Feels” debuted in Billboard at #59 on September 10, 1988 and reached number one a dozen weeks later (pretty much an average ascension time) on December 3rd, marking Reba’s eleventh of her 24 Billboard chart-toppers.

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