For a song that went to the top of both the pop and country charts, I feel that I Can Help by Billy Swan must be one of the most obscure of hit songs.
Maybe it’s because there was a record 36 different #1 songs in 1974 on the US pop charts. It doesn’t show up on oldies stations as much as its contemporaries.
Almost no one of my acquaintances knows the song. I DID hear it used on a commercial in recent years (but I can’t remember for what).
But it was a massive crossover hit, #1 on the Euro Hit 50, plus charts in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and West Germany. It also did well in Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Spain, and the U.K.
Billy later backed Kris Kristofferson on tour after Kris’ first LP was released. From SongFacts: “Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge brought Billy Swan a little RMI organ as a wedding present. Billy was fiddling around with it when the chorus ‘I can help’ appeared and within a few minutes he had written the lyrics.”
The record company [argued what] would be the first single on the album; “Everyone at the record company had actually wanted ‘The Ways of a Woman in Love’ to be the first single,” Chip Young recalls. “I said, ‘No, wait a minute. That’s not the hit. The hit is ‘I Can Help’.’ However, [Monument Records president] Fred Foster then hired a guy who was supposed to know the ins and outs of the business, and he said, ‘There aren’t any hits here. We’ve gotta re-cut a bunch of stuff.’ I said, ‘No, we don’t have to re-cut a bunch of stuff.’ It was a battle from then on.
I think I was so fascinated by it because of the lyric content, which includes:
When I go to sleep at night you’re always a part of my dream
Holding me tight and telling me everything I wanna hear
Don’t forget me baby, all you gotta do is call
You know how I feel about you, if I can do anything at all
Let me help, if your child needs a daddy, I can help
It would sure do me good to do you good
Let me help
Now THAT’S not a casual promise, yet the organ is such a simple riff that it’s a fascinating juxtaposition.
More info on the song HERE.