Ronnie Dunn Found His Own Meaning in Cover of Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’
Written by Clapton in 1977 for his then-future wife Pattie Boyd as she was getting ready for a night out, the bluesy ballad is built on romanticism. Clapton doesn't rush through it, taking his time with each lyric, allowing them to simmer. The instrumentation is genre-flexible — bluesy in nature, but with the essence of an old country song, so it was natural gateway for Dunn. The country star's rendition finds his voice soaring and keeps the blues element while incorporating hints of steel guitar. He arguably brings more emphasis to his version than Clapton's original, capturing the emotion and romance through the nostalgic nature of his voice.
When asked what song on Re-Dunn is most personal to him, the country crooner wasted no time in answering "Wonderful Tonight." While the song holds deep meaning for Clapton, it connects to Dunn's life in its own fashion.
Dunn was coming up in the music circuit in Tulsa, Okla., the same time as Clapton's drummer, Jamie Oldakar. The two would often drive from Tulsa to Nashville together, trying to break into the music industry.
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"I would play the radio for him all the way up and back," Dunn says during an interview at the Taste of Country studio, poised in an easygoing manner as he recalls how the two would listen to country radio during the nine-hour drive, Dunn testing Oldakar's knowledge of the genre.
Oldakar shared stories of Clapton in between, including how Clapton wrote "Wonderful Tonight." A longtime fan of the song, Dunn was tepid to take it on, knowing how special it was to Clapton, as it captures the pure admiration he had for Boyd at the time (they ultimately divorced in 1989 due to his alcoholism and domestic violence) that it almost felt wrong to release his own interpretation.
"The frightening part was that's such an intimately personal song for Eric and he wrote that from the heart. Even after I did it, I'd see people online say, 'Don't try that one, that's his song.' And I kind of felt that way," Dunn admits. "I kind of felt like I was encroaching on his territory a little bit."
But the country legend says that he's "happy" with his version of the classic song, as is Oldakar, who told Dunn he "loves" his rendition.
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