Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Van Stephenson - "Modern Day Delilah"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted April 21, 1984, Peaked #22, 17 Weeks on the Chart)

During the 1990s, I worked for several years in the radio business as a disc jockey. One of the stations played country music, and one of the groups in our rotation was called Black Hawk. As it turned out, Van Stephenson was a member of the band. Since I'd remembered him from "Modern Day Delilah," it seemed odd at the time for him to be doing country. However, Stephenson had grown up in Nashville and got his start writing country songs for artists like Crystal Gayle, Janie Fricke and Kenny Rogers. For him, it wasn't a profit-minded career change, but a true return to his roots.

Even now, "Modern Day Delilah" seems like an odd choice for a singer whose roots were based in Nashville. Yes, the Bible story of Samson and Delilah might point more toward country, but the guitar attack of the song was the antithesis of that sound in 1984. Perhaps his record company or his management felt he would be a better fit for pop and marketed a very MTV-friendly video. However, "Modern Day Delilah" was one of only two three Stephenson songs to reach the Hot 100 (and the only one in the Top 40). Before long, Stephenson was dropped by his label as a solo artist and was once again writing songs for Restless Heart (including their #1 single "The Bluest Eyes in Texas") and other country artists. He would form BlackHawk in 1992.

Sadly, Van Stephenson was diagnosed with melanoma in 1999 and eventually left Black Hawk. He died from the disease in 2001. He was 47 years old.


  1. small correction--he had 3 hits on the Hot 100...otherwise, great work!

  2. My references only show "Modern Day Delilah" and the #45 hit "What the Big Girls Do," both from 1984. What hit am I missing? Or are you counting a song he wrote or performed with BlackHawk?

  3. there was also "You've Got a Good Love Coming", #79 in 1981...

  4. And sure enough...

    I'm the first to admit that I'm human and prone to make a mistake or two. Thanks for the correction, the blog entry has been updated.