Drift Away

"Drift Away" is a song by Mentor Williams written in 1970 and originally recorded by John Henry Kurtz on his 1972 album Reunion. Mentor Williams was a country songwriter, and John Henry Kurtz was an actor and swamp rock singer. It was later given to soul singer Dobie Gray for whom it became a surprise international hit and the best known version. In 1973 the song became Dobie Gray's biggest hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and certified gold by the RIAA.[2] It was the final pop hit for Decca Records in the United States.

"Drift Away"
Dobie Gray - DA.jpg
Single by Dobie Gray
from the album Drift Away
B-side"City Stars"
ReleasedFebruary 1973
GenreSoft rock, R&B [1]
Songwriter(s)Mentor Williams
Producer(s)Mentor Williams
Dobie Gray singles chronology
"Rose Garden"
"Drift Away"
"Loving Arms"

A new version by Uncle Kracker, with Gray, became a major hit in 2003.

Chart performance (Dobie Gray)Edit

Narvel Felts versionEdit

"Drift Away"
Single by Narvel Felts
from the album Drift Away
B-side"Foggy Misty Morning"
Songwriter(s)Mentor Williams
Producer(s)Farah Productions[9]
Narvel Felts singles chronology
"Rockin' Little Angel"
"Drift Away"
"All in the Name of Love"

A country version was recorded by Narvel Felts in 1973. Felts' version — which changed the lyrics "I wanna get lost in your rock and roll" to "I wanna get lost in your country song" — peaked at #8 on the Billboard' Hot Country Singles chart in mid-August 1973, about three months after Gray's version reached its popularity peak.[10] This song marked Narvel's first success in the country scene, as he was known from the late 1950s as a rockabilly singer.

Chart performance (Narvel Felts)Edit

Chart (1973) Peak
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 48
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 8

Michael Bolton versionEdit

"Drift Away"
Single by Michael Bolton
from the album Timeless: The Classics
Songwriter(s)Mentor Williams
Michael Bolton singles chronology
"To Love Somebody"
"Drift Away"
"Reach Out I'll Be There"

Michael Bolton covered "Drift Away" in 1992. The single was released from the LP Timeless: The Classics. His rendition became the only hit version of the song in the United Kingdom, where it reached #18. The song also charted in Ireland and New Zealand.

Chart historyEdit

Chart (1992–93) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[11] 15
New Zealand (RIANZ) 23
UK [12] 18

Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray versionEdit

"Drift Away"
Single by Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray
from the album No Stranger to Shame
ReleasedMarch 17, 2003
GenreCountry rock
Songwriter(s)Mentor Williams
Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray singles chronology
"In a Little While"
"Drift Away"
"Memphis Soul Song"

A cover version was released by Uncle Kracker in 2003 from his album No Stranger To Shame. This version, which featured Dobie Gray singing the bridge and singing backing vocals and final verse with Kracker, reached #9 on the Hot 100. The song was in the year-end top 20 just like the original 1973 version. It spent a then-record-setting 28 weeks atop the adult contemporary chart in the U.S. It also peaked at #25 on the New Zealand Singles chart.

Music videoEdit

The music video was directed by Bronston Jones. Filmed in Kracker's hometown of Detroit, it shows him performing the song on stage to an audience (Dobie, during his parts, comes in to perform) and Kracker working at a garage (owned by his brother), unloading and stacking tires. Scenes also feature him walking alone on snowy railroad tracks, and singing on an empty stage in the garage. His mechanic's uniform is labeled "Matt," a reference to his real first name, Matthew.


Chart (2003–2004) Peak
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[13] 25
US Billboard Hot 100[14] 9
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[15] 1
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[16] 2
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[17] 10

Year-end chartsEdit

Chart (2003) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[18] 19

Other cover versionsEdit

"Drift Away" has also been covered by many bands and vocalists around the world. Versions include those of Clarence Carter, Uncle Kracker, Allan Clarke, Roy Orbison, Ike & Tina Turner, Humble Pie, Mud, Jackie DeShannon, Rod Stewart, James Hollis, Waylon Jennings, Ray Charles, Michael Bolton, the Neville Brothers, Jon Bon Jovi,[19] Copperhead, Christian Kane, the Rolling Stones, the Nylons, Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen, BoDeans, Judson Spence, Billy Joe Royal, Steve Young and John Kay.[20] Folk singer Tom Rush recorded the song on his album What I Know, released in 2009.

The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of the song during the sessions for their It's Only Rock 'n Roll LP in 1974, but it did not appear on the finished album.[21] The Heptones recorded a reggae version which is included on many compilation CDs. Street Corner Symphony also sang a version of this song as their swan song on the season 2 finale of the NBC series The Sing-Off; that version is arranged by Deke Sharon.[22] Bon Jovi usually played the song live in 1987: a version was recorded as part of a Westwood One radio live series concert. Dolly Parton and Anne Murray performed the song together in 1976 on Parton's variety show Dolly!, though they sang the lyrics of the Felts' version ("I want to get lost in your country song").

Garth Brooks for the 2013 Blue-Eyed Soul album in the Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences compilation.

Temuera Morrison recorded and included Drift Away in his 2014 debut album Tem.[23]

Country music star, Lynn Anderson (who was the partner of Mentor Williams who wrote the song), recorded a gospel version that was rewritten by Williams for her 2015 gospel album, Drift Away, which would become her final album.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "200 Greatest Soft Rock Songs". entertainment.expertscolumn.com.
  2. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - November 21, 2010: Dobie Gray certified singles". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on February 25, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  3. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  4. ^ "Dobie Gray Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 101.
  6. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (December 26, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly".
  7. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1973/Top 100 Songs of 1973". musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  8. ^ http://tropicalglen.com/Archives/70s_files/1973YESP.html Archived 2014-07-15 at the Wayback Machine Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1973
  9. ^ "Narvel Felts - Drift Away / Foggy Misty Morning - ABC - UK - ABC 4119". 45cat. 1976-05-14. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  11. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Drift Away". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  12. ^ "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 1992-12-26. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  13. ^ "Charts.nz – Uncle Kracker feat. Dobie Gray – Drift Away". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  14. ^ "Uncle Kracker Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  15. ^ "Uncle Kracker Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  16. ^ "Uncle Kracker Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  17. ^ "Uncle Kracker Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  18. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 2003". Billboardtop100of.com. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  19. ^ http://www.ouvirmusica.com.br/jon-bon-jovi/1530488/
  20. ^ "Original versions of Drift Away written by Mentor Williams". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  21. ^ Stadler, Gustavus (25 June 2013). "Cover Art". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  22. ^ Sharon, Deke; Dietz, Robert (2005). "Drift Away". Modern A Cappella Volume 1 SATB (div). Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 1-423-40048-8.
  23. ^ "Temuera Morrison releases debut album". Stuff.co.nz. 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2016-10-08.

External linksEdit