Single Stories: Bread, “If”

Friday, April 24, 2020
Bread MANNA Cover Art

47 years ago this week, Bread released the second single from their third album, a song that muscled its way up the Billboard Hot 100 – well, you know, inasmuch as a soft-pop single can muscle its way up anything – and settled in the top five.

Produced by David Gates and co-written by Gates and Waleen Johnson, “If” followed on the heels of “Let Your Love Go,” the first single from Bread’s MANNA album. While that track was a top-30 hit, climbing to #28, its success wasn’t on par with the band’s previous pair of singles, “Make It With You” and “It Don’t Matter to Me,” which hit #1 and #10, respectively. When “If” came out, however, it was like the middling success of “Let Your Love Go” never happened: the song made it to #4 on the Hot 100 and topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart.

“If” also went down like gangbusters when Bread performed in concert, which Malcolm C. Searles documented in his book Bread: A Sweet Surrender:

“The recent Top 10 single, ‘If,’ would always receive a huge cheer, and loud screams from the many teenage girls present, once the initial quivering guitar chords rang out over the vast arenas and concert halls, and with Mike often appearing on bass for the song – what else could the drummer do on this final ballad? – it would draw the performance to a tumultuous conclusion after 70 or so minutes onstage.”

And here’s a fun fact to wrap things up: until 1993, “If” was the shortest song title to become a top-10 hit, a record it held until Prince’s “7” hit – what a coincidence! - #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.


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