“I Feel Like Going Home” by Charlie Rich is a Pullover song for me. When I first heard it in my car, it was so powerful I had to pull over my car to listen to it.
For a long time, I only knew Charlie Rich from his “Behind Closed Doors” and “Most Beautiful Girl” era. I liked the former song as a cheesy song about having sex but was never a fan of the latter. So I pretty much wrote him off as someone who once did a pop song I kind of liked. But I was wrong.
Rich is an amazing talent who never quite got the attention he deserved, perhaps because his musical talents were so diverse and he refused to be put into one category. He has some great rockabilly songs from Sun Records. He recorded there not long after Elvis Presley left the recording studio. And he made some excellent country recordings.
His final album before his death, Pictures and Paintings, was largely a jazz album. The Silver Fox was an excellent piano player, and he wrote some great songs.
Pictures and Paintings featured Rich’s song, “I Feel Like Going Home.” It is a nice recording with a band, and the album is worth checking out. And Rich recorded other versions of the song, including an over-produced version as a B-side to “The Most Beautiful Girl.” But it is another version of the song that captures something much more.
The Origins of “I Feel Like Going Home”
First, though, it helps to understand how Rich came to write the song. In 1971, writer Peter Guralnick wrote a series of essays about some of the great performers of country, blues, and rock and roll music. The book was called Feel Like Going Home and featured a loving profile of Rich, before his “Behind Closed Doors” comeback.
At the time of Guralnick’s book, Rich was struggling in the wilderness and it had been years since Rich had any kind of success. Guralnick took the title of a Muddy Waters’ song for the inspiration for his book’s title. And the book, with Guralnick’s loving portrait of Rich, in turn inspired Rich to write his song with a similar name.
The Great Demo Version and Richard Nixon
Besides the version on Pictures and Paintings, there is another version of “I Feel Like Going Home” that cuts to your core. It is a demo version with no production and just Rich singing and banging on the piano. This version appears on the 1997 compilation Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich, which is worth seeking out.
Also, it is this version that is closest to what rock critic Greil Marcus remembered Charlie Rich playing for Richard Nixon around the time of his downfall. (Greil Marcus, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music.) Marcus has called this version of Rich’s song about failure “the strongest moment of Rich’s career — a match for Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia On My Mind’ or Otis Redding’s ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ and somehow more indomitable than either.” (Greil Marcus, In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-1992, 207).
It is fantastic. Check out the demo version of Charlie Rich’s “I Feel Like Going Home.”
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