Reba McEntire’s ‘The Last One to Know’ Turns 25
Reba McEntire calls this album — released on Sept. 7, 1987 — her divorce album, and the heavy content is indicative of what she was going through at the time. Her separation from husband Charlie Battles after 11 years isn’t something she dishes on with any frequency, so one is forced to read between the lines of 10 well-crafted and emotional songs to get the scoop.
It’s dangerous, however, to speculate that McEntire pulled a Taylor Swift before Taylor Swift was born and revealed the personal details of her heartbreak on ‘The Last One to Know.’ More likely, the pain helped fuel the recordings, including the self-penned ‘I Don’t Want to Be Alone’ and the Matraca Berg (‘You and Tequilla’) written title-track. The latter — about a woman whose man has left her for another woman — was one of two No. 1 hits. ‘Love Will Find Its Way to You,’ a rare slice of hope on any otherwise dark project, is the other.
‘What You Gonna Do About Me’ is about divorce, but it involves kids. McEntire and Battle didn’t have any children together. In ‘The Stairs,’ McEntire sings about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. This story seems hopeless, and there has never been any indication that McEntire was abused. In fact, all she has said about the split was that she wanted to pursue her career while her husband hoped for a more domestic life. By 1989, she’d married Narvel Blackstock, the man who still stands by her side today.
Art may not have imitated life on ‘The Last One to Know,’ but there’s little doubt that life made a bed for this album’s melancholy mood. ‘Just Across the Rio Grande’ (later covered by Holly Dunn) is another heartbreaker, as is ‘I’ve Still Got the Love We Made.’
‘The Last One to Know’ peaked at No. 3 on the album charts, but despite only two radio singles, it still went platinum for one million copies sold.