Known best for her run of hit country songs in the 1980s and '90s, Holly Dunn died Tuesday (Nov. 15) after battling ovarian cancer. She was 59.
Born Holly Suzette Dunn in San Antonio, Texas, in 1957, the singer-songwriter rolled up 21 appearances on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart from 1985 to 1995, initially recording for MTM Records before moving to Warner Bros. in 1989. Originally, Dunn and songwriter brother Chris Waters signed to MTM as writers. Early success came when the pair, along with Tom Shapiro, co-wrote Louise Mandrell's "I'm Not Through Loving You Yet," which rose to No. 7 on Hot Country Songs in June 1984.
After then signing with MTM as an artist, Dunn's 1985 debut single, "Playing for Keeps," dented Hot Country Songs with a No. 62 peak before she cracked the top 10 for the first time with what became arguably her signature song, "Daddy's Hands" (her fourth chart entry), which climbed to No. 7 in November 1986. Dunn wrote "Hands" by herself as a tribute to her father, a San Antonio minister.
Holly Dunn's 10 Biggest Billboard Hits
Rank, Title, Hot Country Songs Peak Position, Peak Date
1, "Are You Ever Gonna Love Me," No. 1 (one week), 1989
2, "Love Someone Like Me," No. 2, 1987
3, "There Goes My Heart Again," No. 4, 1989
4, "Only When I Love," No. 4, 1987
5, "That's What Your Love Does to Me," No. 5, 1988
6, "You Really Had Me Going," No. 1 (one week), 1990
7, "A Face in the Crowd" (with Michael Martin Murphy), No. 4, 1987
8, "Strangers Again," No. 7, 1988
9, "Daddy's Hands," No. 7, 1986
10, " (It's Always Gonna Be) Someday," No. 11, 1988
Holly Dunn's 10 Biggest Billboard Hits are based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot Country Songs chart (through the Nov. 26, 2016, ranking). Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower ranks earning less. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted to account for different chart turnover rates over various periods.
Dunn collected nine total Hot Country Songs top 10s, including two No. 1s: "Are You Ever Gonna Love Me" (1986) and "You Really Had Me Going" (1990). Her chart hits included two duets: "A Face in the Crowd," with Michael Martin Murphey (No. 4, 1987), and "Maybe," with Kenny Rogers (No. 25, 1990). Dunn also logged six Top Country Albums entries, with 1987's Cornerstone her highest-charting (No. 22).
Dunn was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1989. She signed with River North Records in 1995, releasing two albums for the label: Life and Love and All the Stages (1995) and Leave One Bridge Standing (1997). Before retiring from music to pursue painting, she released one last LP in 2003, Full Circle, on the independent South Heart label.
Dunn's career even included a short stint in radio. Having worked in college radio, she joined WWWW-FM Detroit in 1997 as morning personality Jim Bosh's co-host in 1997, staying on-air for almost a year.
"Working with Holly was one of the highlights of my career," Bosh tells Billboard. "Holly was talented, gracious and always came to work with a great attitude and a smile on her face. We had many awesome experiences doing the show in the studio and on the road. The whole team had a great time off the air, as well, with many lunches and dinner parties and lots of laughs. Holly was class and warmth 24/7. I will miss her forever."