"I've Never Been to Me" is the title of a ballad, written and composed by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch, which is best known via a recording by American pop singer Charlene. Its original release in 1977 barely registered on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., but its re-release in 1982 peaked at No. 3 and earned her a gold certification. In addition, the song topped the charts in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The song is best known as lyrically formatted for a female vocalist and as such is addressed to a desperate wife and mother who would like to trade her prosaic existence for the jet setting lifestyle the song's narrator has led. The narrator alludes to various hedonistic episodes in her life, concluding that while she's "been to paradise," she's ultimately failed to find self-fulfillment expressing this with the line, "I've never been to me." There is also an alternate set of lyrics for the song formatted for a male singer, in which the narrator is an elderly man, destined to die the very next day, begging for a dime for a cup of coffee, addressing a younger man who is "raising hell" the way the old man used to do.
Charlene had recorded "I've Never Been to Me" in 1976 for her 1977 self-titled album release. Upon its September 1977 single release, "I've Never Been to Me" became Charlene's third consecutive single to stall in the lowest part of the Hot 100 in Billboard following "It Ain't Easy Coming Down" - also from the Charlene album - and Freddie whose respective Hot 100 peaks had been #97 and #96: the Hot 100 peak of "I've Never Been to Me" in its original release was #97 and while Charlene's precedent two singles had both reached Billboard's Easy Listening chart - "It Ain't Easy Coming Down" at #23, "Freddie" at #40 - "I've Never Been to Me" failed to appear on that chart.
The earliest version of "I've Never Been to Me" to be released was that by Randy Crawford which appeared on her 1976 album release Everything Must Change. Besides Charlene's version, 1977 also saw the release of versions of the song by Nancy Wilson and Walter Jackson: Nancy Wilson's version served as the title track of her June 1977 album release and was the first version of the song to be released as a single reaching #47 on the Billboard's R&B chart, while Walter Jackson's version - featuring the lyric formatted from a male perspective - was featured on his I Want To Come Back As A Song album released in the spring of 1977.
In February 1978 a mid-tempo recording of "I've Never Been to Me" by Mary McGregor was released as the advance single from her In Your Eyes album: this single reached #29 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart. Also in 1978 Marti Caine recorded "I've Never Been to Me" for her album release Behind the Smile from which it was issued as a single, and Mary Roos recorded the German rendering by lyricist Michael Kunze entitled "Doch mich selber kenn ich nicht" (But I do not know myself) for her album Maryland.
The hit revival of Charlene's version
In 1982 Scott Shannon, a disc jockey at Tampa radio station WRBQ, began playing the "I've Never Been to Me" track off the Charlene album, and response from local listeners was such as to motivate Shannon, a former Motown employee, to alert Motown president Jay Lasker to the track's hit potential. Lasker located Charlene who, discouraged by the poor performance of her 1977 Motown releases and by the label's decision not to release a second album she had recorded, had left the music industry and met and married an Englishman, subsequently accompanying him to his native land and taking a job at a candy store in Ilford. Lasker located Charlene and personally telephoned her with the invitation to re-sign with Motown Records to facilitate the re-release of her "I've Never Been To Me" single, which was done in the spring of 1982.
The Billboard Hot 100 dated March 6, 1982 showed "I've Never Been to Me" by Charlene debuting at #84 - thirteen notches higher than the peak of its 1977 original release - to ascend to the Top 40 in four weeks and subsequently rise as high as #3 on the Hot 100 dated May 22, 1982. The track had even more chart impact internationally attaining #1 status in Australia (six weeks), Canada (four weeks), Ireland (three weeks) and the UK. "I've Never Been to Me" also afforded Charlene a Top Ten hit in Belgium (Flemish Region) (#7), the Netherlands (#7), New Zealand (#5) and Norway (#5). In 1982 Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me" was also a hit on the Easy Listening Chart (#7) and a minor C&W chart crossover (#60).
As Charlene was unable to successfully follow up the success of "I've Never Been to Me" - her only subsequent Hot 100 entry "Used to Be" (a duet with Stevie Wonder) stalled outside the Top 40 at #46 - she remains a high-profile one-hit wonder: on the 2002 VH1 special 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders, "I've Never Been to Me" by Charlene was ranked at #75.
A Spanish language recording of "I've Never Been to Me" entitled "Nunca He Ido A Mi" was recorded by Charlene and was one of two B-side tracks featured on the re-release of "It Ain't Easy Coming Down" - the followup to the 1982 release of "I've Never Been to Me" - in its UK format (in other territories "It Ain't Easy Coming Down" featured only the one B-side "If I Could See Myself").
Charlene re-released the song in the form of a dance remix via download music in 2008.
Tracy Huang Ying Ying, a famous Taiwanesediva, covered this song and she is better known for this song in Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of Asia than the original singer. This version replaces the words "subtle whoring" with "inner feelings."
A hi-NRG/eurodance cover of the song by Rainbow Nation featuring Monica Dionne was released as a single through Almighty Records in 2003. An audio sample can be heard on the official Almighty Records website.
J-pop singer Yuki Koyanagi recorded a Japanese-language cover. It was included on the "Love Knot-Ai No Kizuna" single from 2004. She sang it in English as well.
Mary MacGregor released a radio edit in which the lyric, "I spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free," was replaced by "I thought my heart would wait, but I learned too late that it costs too much to be free."
Subsequent versions in languages other than English
Czech: "Já Slyšel O Ráji" - I heard about paradise - recorded by Karel Gott for his 1983 album release ...a to mám rád.
Dutch: "Ik moet leren" ("I need to learn") recorded by Garry Hagger for his 1996 album release Het allermooiste.
Finnish: "En tunne itseäin" ("I do not know myself") recorded by Seija Simola in 1984. It was released as a single, as well as on the compilation "Jokamiehen suosikit 10".
"Ich hab' ins Paradies geseh'n (I've peeked into paradise)" 1982 single release for Paola
"Doch mich selber kenn ich nicht" (But I do not know myself - lyric by Michael Kunze) - introduced by Mary Roos on her 1978 album Maryland - remade by Leonard for his 2001 Rhythmus der nacht album.
"De Wind vun Hamborg" (the breeze of Hamburg) a "Plattdüütsch" (Low German) rendering recorded by Ina Müller in 2009 having been a staple of Müller's live act for several years. Müller is herself the lyricist for this rendering radically reinvents the original English song relating the singer's experiences during her travels of Northern Germany and concluding that the most happy times have always been when she felt the breeze of Hamburg blowing, thereby transporting the sentiment of there being no place like home.
Japanese: There are two different versions of the lyrics in Japanese. One largely follows the original theme, while a newer version has completely different lyrics written by Keiko Aso(麻生圭子) with the title "LOVE IS ALL ～愛を聴かせて～"(Love is All -Let me hear your love-). Japanese female singer Megumi Shiina(椎名恵) recorded it for a TV period drama of the unrequited love between Takeda Shingen's daughter and Oda Nobunaga's son. The latter, positive version is often used as a wedding song in Japan; the chorus line "never been to me" is replaced with "my love is true".
Korean: "As One" (애즈 원), Korean female duo, Crystal (Dahee Chae 채다희) and Min (Minyoung Lee 이민영). Lyric by Sara Yun (윤사라), and re-arranged by Jaehong Shin (신재홍). Album Day by day, released on November 11, 1999.
Vietnamese: "Thiên Đường Ảo" ("Virtual Heaven") was written and sung by Vân Quỳnh.
It was covered by Irish TV puppet Dustin the Turkey (from the children's TV series The Den) with re-worked lyrics on his album Unplucked. This version replaces the title with a claim that Dustin has "never been to Meath."
WLW Radio in Cincinnati (The Gary Burbank Show) played a parody called "Never Been To Xenia" in the 1980s.
In the 2008 UK TV Series, Beautiful People, Simon's teacher Miss Prentice delivers the second verse and chorus as a farewell speech when leaving the school, replacing the word 'paradise' in the chorus with the town of Reading, where the show is set.