REO Speedwagon’s ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ Was a Rebellion Against Irish-Catholic Culture

REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin with red light


No genre knows how to express emotions quite like the classic rock power ballad. Case in point: REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

No genre knows how to express emotions quite like the classic rock power ballad. Case in point: REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” A member of the band explained why he wrote it in the first place. Notably, a famous kids’ movie made the song prominent again.

REO Speedwagon’s ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ is about multiple people

“Can’t Fight This Feeling” was written and co-produced by REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin. During a 2017 interview with Songfacts, he was asked if “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was about a specific individual. He said the tune was about an amalgamation of people. Like many of Cronin’s songs, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was inspired by something that made him have an emotional reaction.

“But really, what the song is about was about my inability to have the courage to express myself,” Cronin said. “I was brought up in an Irish-Catholic family, and you were taught to always keep a bright face, always act like everything was OK, even if maybe everything on the inside wasn’t so OK. So that’s something I’ve struggled with, and over the years have gotten better at.”

REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin had some great advice for fans

Cronin discussed the feelings that he couldn’t fight. “At that time, the only way I knew to express those feelings was to write songs about them,” he said. “I’ve learned over the years that it works better to talk to people! 

“You can actually become closer to other human beings when you are vulnerable and express yourself and are free to tell the truth and to be honest and to be up front with your feelings,” he added. “It does work. Back in those days, the best that I could do was write a song about it.”

“Can’t Fight This Feeling” became REO Speedwagon’s second and final No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. It was No. 1 in the United States for three weeks and lasted on the chart for 18 weeks in total.

“Can’t Fight This Feeling” appeared on the record Wheels Are Turnin’. That record peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and spent 49 weeks on the chart. Three other singles from the album reached the top 40: “I Do’ Wanna Know,” “One Lonely Night,” and “Live Every Moment.” REO Speedwagon certainly had their fingers on the pulse of America if they managed to have four top 40 singles off of the same album!

“Can’t Fight This Feeling” became popular again in the 2000s because it appeared in the film Horton Hears a Who!, which was based on Dr. Seuss’ picture book of the same name. In that film, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell perform the song. Dr. Seuss certainly wasn’t thinking about 1980s arena rock when he wrote Horton Hears a Who!, but adaptations of his work tend to include pop culture references in order to keep adults in the audience interested.

Since the success of Horton Hears a Who!, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” has inspired covers by JoJo and Bastille. That movie appears to have given the tune a second life. Today, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is undoubtedly the most famous song by REO Speedwagon.

Cronin didn’t know how to fight his feelings and embracing them gave him an enduring No. 1 hit.

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