The Current

Great Music Lives Here ®
Listener-Supported Music
Donate Now
Radio Heartland®

Classic Americana: Juice Newton

Singer-songwriter Juice Newton during a television appearance in 1987.
Singer-songwriter Juice Newton during a television appearance in 1987.Juice Newton via Facebook

by Mike Pengra and Luke Taylor

February 16, 2024

Every Friday around 11 a.m. Central, it’s time for Classic Americana on Radio Heartland. We pull a special track from the archives or from deep in the shelves to spotlight a particular artist or song.

This week, we’re celebrating singer-songwriter Juice Newton, who was born on February 18, 1952. Her given name is Judith, but she used her nickname since childhood, “Juice,” as her artist name, and eventually as her legal name.

Although born in New Jersey, Juice Newton grew up in Virginia and moved to Northern California to attend college. It was in California that Newton met her longtime musical partner Otha Young, and after an inauspicious start — being signed by RCA and then dropped two albums later — signed to Capitol Records, and in February 1981, released her breakout album, Juice. The album includes Newton’s cover of “Angel of the Morning,” considered the definitive version of that song, and it went to No. 1 for three weeks in Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart that April. Another track on the album, “The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known),” was written by Newton’s friend and bandmate Otha Young, and it went to No. 1 in both the Billboard Adult Contemporary and Country charts, and it peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard pop chart, remaining in the Top 40 for 18 weeks.

But Newton’s favorite cut from the album Juice is the song, “Queen of Hearts.” Originally written by Hank DeVito, “Queen of Hearts” was previously recorded and released on albums by both Dave Edmunds and Rodney Crowell. It was, however, Juice Newton who recorded the definitive version of the song, and “Queen of Hearts” would become Newton’s best-selling single, and it would also became an international hit.

The album earned Newton her first Grammy nominations: Best Female Pop Vocalist for “Angel of the Morning” and Best Female Country Vocalist for “Queen of Hearts.” Although Newton didn’t win a Grammy that year, she did win a Grammy in 1983 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance on her cover of the song, “Break It to Me Gently,” from her follow-up album, Quiet Lies.

Newton enjoyed a long career in music. Her friend and bandmate Otha Young died of lung cancer in 2009, and Newton retired from touring in about 2021. She lives in the San Diego area, where she enjoys raising horses. That said, Newton’s songs continue being discovered, having received multiple placements in television programs as well as in such high-profile films as Deadpool and Promising Young Woman.

Classic Americana Playlist

Juice Newton – official site

Juice Newton – Facebook