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Juice Newton: The Angel Of The Morning And Queen Of Hearts, Then And Now

Music | February 18, 2021

Juice Newton performing in Toronto on June 29, 1982. (Photo by Mike Slaughter/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

No voice says early-'80s country-pop quite like Juice Newton's. With hits "Angel Of The Morning" and "Queen Of Hearts," she scaled the Billboard Hot 100, even as she went to #1 on the country chart with "The Sweetest Thing (I've Ever Known)," a song pulled from the very same album. Newton was an important figure of the 1980s, when the lines between country and pop music were beginning to blur, and she did have success playing both genres, although in the final tally she had significantly more country hits. These days, you’re more likely to find her galloping around San Diego on one of her horses rather than up on a stage, but it’s no secret she has lived a significant life of music and prosperity.

Newton’s Mother Encouraged Her Musical Career

Juice Newton was born Judith Kay Newton on February 18, 1952 in Lakehurst, New Jersey, but moved to Virginia where she was raised with her military family. Her mother was a music enthusiast and inspired Newton to give the activity a try when she bought her a guitar while Juice was still in high school. From that moment, Newton became addicted to playing the instrument and studying the art of music as she felt destined to be an entertainer and performer. She took a keen interest in the radio and would deeply analyze how the successful artists and bands were playing and writing their songs and she would eventually play around her hometown in Virginia Beach.

Newton Joined The California Folk Scene During The Mid-‘70s

After graduating high school, Newton moved to Los Altos Hills, CA to pursue a musical career, beginning by playing around small coffeehouses. During the mid-‘70s she met guitarist/songwriter Otha Young, who would play a prominent role during her entire career and with whom she would remain lifelong friends. The pair formed the folk-rock group Dixie Peach with bassist Tom Kealey and continued playing around coffeehouses and local bars around northern California. Dixie Peach remained a band for about a year before they split, and Newton and Young formed the band Juice Newton & Silver Spur, which leaned more towards the country genre than their previous band. Juice Newton & Silver Spur acquired a substantial fan base that was large enough for them to sign a contract with RCA Records in Los Angeles. With the help of some of the top session musicians in Los Angeles, the group released their self-titled debut album, which spawned the single "Love Is A Word," a radio hit in 1976. Their next album After The Dust Settles went nowhere, so the band was dropped from RCA and they switched over to Capitol Records. With Capitol, they released Come To Me, but unfortunately this album had the same result as their previous one. Sensing the band had run its course, Juice Newton & Silver Spur decided to just break up.

Newton Became A Hit-Maker In The 1980s

After the split, Newton and Young continued working together with Capitol Records. Newton released two albums on the label Well Kept Secret (1978) and Take Heart (1979), both of which failed to chart. The singles "Let's Keep It That Way" and "Sunshine" stalled at #37 and #35, respectively, on the Country chart. Newton just wasn't catching on, but that was about to change in a big way.

Her third solo album on Capitol, 1981's Juice, catapulted Newton into stardom, especially with the bright cover of Chip Taylor’s "Angel Of The Morning," which was a crossover success reaching #4 on the pop charts and #22 on the country charts. The album produced further hits for both genres including "Queen Of Hearts" (#2 pop; #14 country) and the former Silver Spurs tune "The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)," which became Newton's first Country chart #1 (and a pop chart #7). The album itself went platinum and reached #22 on the album charts. 

 Her follow-up album Quiet Lies was another triumph when it was released in 1982 with the hits "Love’s Been A Little Bit Hard On Me" and "Break It To Me Gently."  This album, which was certified gold, led her to also earn the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance. Unfortunately, the follow-up album Dirty Looks failed to maintain the momentum.

Newton Switched From Country-Pop To Country 

During the mid-‘80s, Newton strayed entirely from pop and endeavored solely in the country genre. She returned to RCA in 1984 when she released the country album Can’t Wait All Night. Her next country record Old Flame came out in 1985, which also produced some chart-topping country hits such as "You Make Me Want To Make You Mine," "Hurt," and the duet with country singer Eddie Rabbit "Both To Each Other (Friends & Lovers)."  Other top-10 hits from the album included "Old Flame," "Cheap Love," and "What Can I Do With My Heart."  Despite the success from this album, it was her only major victory in country music. After this record, she would release one more top-10 hit single, "Tell Me True" in 1987, from the album Emotion.

Newton Now Lives The Equestrian Life

As the 1980s ended, Newton took a long break from recording as she transitioned back to pop and would perform at clubs throughout the ‘90s. She returned to the studio in 1998 when she released The Trouble With Angels, which featured re-recorded hits and entirely new material. Since the ‘90s, she continues to perform and release albums occasionally, but is also focused on other activities. Newton is very involved with horse-related culture and enjoys riding her horses throughout San Diego in her spare time and takes part in horse trading. This passion began in the 1980s and led to her marrying Tom Godspeed in 1985, who was the coach at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center where she kept her gelding named Puppy. The couple have divorced, but she spends a great amount of time with their children Jessica and Tyler Godspeed. When Otta Young passed in 2009 of cancer, Newton was devastated to lose her bandmate/songwriter/manager/best friend, but still continues to enjoy life and pursue all her passions.

Tags: 1980s Music | Country Music | Juice Newton | Ladies | Then And Now

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.