Unveiling the Tale Behind Reba McEntire’s Hit “I Know How He Feels”
Written by Rick Bowles and Will Robinson
Reba McEntire, the reigning queen of country music in 1988, embarked on a unique musical journey with her 19th album, aptly titled “Reba.” This album took her fans by surprise, as it featured unexpected covers like Aretha Franklin’s iconic “Respect” and the timeless pop and jazz classic, “Sunday Kind Of Love.” Interestingly, “Sunday Kind Of Love” was suggested to Reba by her personal publicist, Jennifer Bohler, and defied expectations by climbing to a respectable #5 on Billboard’s country singles chart.
While some fans speculated that Reba might be transitioning towards a more pop-oriented sound, she was determined to set the record straight. She had no intentions of forsaking her country roots and solidified her commitment with the release of the second single from the “Reba” collection, the song that would later become a classic, “I Know How He Feels.“
Originally penned by Rick Bowles and Will Robinson as “I Know How She Feels,” this heartfelt composition was originally meant to be sung from a male perspective. The core lyrics remained intact, with a few variations in the chorus and the second verse.
The song’s journey took an unexpected turn when two representatives from the song’s publishing company, Kevin Lamb and Cliff Williamson, introduced it to Terry Skinner and J. L. Wallace, who were producing the Forrester Sisters at that time. Intrigued by the song’s potential, they asked Robinson and Bowles to craft a set of lyrics tailored for a female vocalist.
As the talented songwriters set to work, it quickly became apparent that the song was better suited for a female interpretation. Renaming it “I Know How He Feels” and making necessary adjustments to the lyrics, the song was initially reserved for the Forrester Sisters. However, for reasons unknown, the sisters never got around to recording it. The song then found its way to Judy Rodman but met a similar fate. Finally, it landed in the hands of Reba McEntire.
Though Reba was captivated by the song’s beauty, she wrestled with the decision to record it. Her hesitation stemmed from her recent divorce from her longtime husband, Charlie Battles. She was concerned that listeners might misinterpret her performance as a reflection of regret about the divorce, which was far from the truth. The divorce had been a carefully considered decision, and there was no turning back.
Ultimately, Reba chose to record “I Know How He Feels” not because it mirrored her personal emotions about her divorce but because she recognized it as a remarkable song with undeniable hit potential.
Reba’s rendition of “I Know How He Feels” boasted a unique production approach. The song kicked off without any drums during the first verse and chorus, gradually building in intensity as it progressed. “I Know How He Feels” made its Billboard debut at #59 on September 10, 1988, and reached the pinnacle of the charts a dozen weeks later, on December 3rd. This marked Reba’s eleventh of her 24 Billboard chart-toppers, solidifying her status as a country music legend.
Artist: Reba McEntire
When I heard that familiar voice,
My heart stopped dead in it’s tracks.
Across the room I could see him there,
A ghost from my past.
But he’s too caught up to notice me.
She must be his new love.
I never dreamed that it would hurt this much,
I know how he feels.
How warm his touch is.
Oh how he feels.
How soft his kiss is.
And it cuts right down to the bone
Cause I let him go.
I know how he cares.
How strong his love can be,
When he believes it’s real.
Oh I’ve been there.
I know how he feels.
As long as I kept him out of site,
I kept from going out of my mind.
Tried to believe that leaving him was some how justified.
But tonight there’s no denying what a love like his is worth
He once looked at me the way he’s looking at her.
What a lucky girl.