Charlene - I've Never Been To Me (1982)
- 80's score: 1.89
- Genre(s): Pop
“I’ve Never Been to Me” is a ballad, written and composed by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch and made popular ...
“I’ve Never Been to Me” is a ballad, written and composed by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch and made popular via a recording by American singer Charlene. Although its original release in 1977 barely registered on the Billboard Hot 100, its re-release in 1982 hit number three in the US and earned her a Gold certification in Australia, where it held the number one spot for six weeks. In addition, the song topped the charts in Canada (4 weeks), Ireland (3 weeks), and the United Kingdom. It was also a Top Ten triumph in Norway, Belgium, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, and became Motown’s first Top Ten hit by a white female solo singer.
The song is best known as lyrically formatted for a female vocalist and as such is addressed to a desperate wife and mother who would like to trade her prosaic existence for the jet setting lifestyle the song’s narrator has led. The narrator alludes to various hedonistic episodes in her life, concluding that while she’s “been to paradise”, she’s ultimately failed to find self-fulfillment, expressing this with the line, “I’ve never been to me.” There is also an alternative set of lyrics for the song formatted for a male singer, in which the narrator is an elderly man, destined to die the very next day, begging for a dime for a cup of coffee, addressing a younger man who is “raising hell” the way the old man used to do.
Charlene had recorded “I’ve Never Been to Me” in 1976 for her debut album, the self-titled Charlene, and the ballad contained a controversial spoken section. Songs of Love came out six months later in 1977 and was essentially a re-issue of Charlene, having a slightly different track listing but retaining “I’ve Never Been to Me” without the spoken bridge. In October 1977, “I’ve Never Been to Me” became Charlene’s third consecutive single to stall in the lowest part of Billboard’s Hot 100.
In 1982 Scott Shannon, a disc jockey at Tampa radio station WRBQ-FM, began playing the “I’ve Never Been to Me” track off the Charlene album (with the original recitative), and response from local listeners was such as to motivate Shannon, a former Motown employee, to alert Motown president Jay Lasker to the track’s hit potential. Lasker located Charlene who, discouraged by the poor performance of her 1977 Motown releases and by the label’s decision not to release a second album she had recorded, had left the music industry and met and married an Englishman, subsequently accompanying him to his native land and taking a job at a sweetshop in Ilford. Lasker personally telephoned her with the invitation to re-sign with Motown Records to facilitate the re-release of her “I’ve Never Been To Me” single, which occurred in February 1982.
The Billboard Hot 100 dated March 6, 1982, showed “I’ve Never Been to Me” by Charlene debuting at #84 – already 13 places higher than its 1977 peak. It subsequently rose as high as #3 on the Hot 100, where it held for three weeks during May and June. The song ranked at #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart for 1982. The track had even greater impact internationally, attaining #1 status in Australia (six weeks), Canada (four weeks), Ireland (three weeks), and the United Kingdom. “I’ve Never Been to Me” also afforded Charlene a Top Ten hit in Belgium (Flemish Region) (#7), the Netherlands (#7), New Zealand (#5), and Norway (#5). In 1982, Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been to Me” was also a Top 10 hit on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart (#7) and a minor C&W chart crossover (#60).
When the song was revived in 1982, the version being played on radio was the take with the monologue, so it was the one Motown re-issued, not the Songs of Love single version from 1977. The song was never actually re-recorded by Charlene in 1982.
As Charlene was unable to successfully follow up the success of “I’ve Never Been to Me” – her only subsequent Hot 100 entry “Used to Be” (a duet with Stevie Wonder) got as high as #46 – she remains a high-profile one-hit wonder. On the 2002 VH1 special 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders, “I’ve Never Been to Me” was ranked at #75. In the program, it was stated that her entry “expresses the post-’70s hangover.”