Classic Country Singles: Rosanne Cash, “Seven Year Ache”

Seven Year Ache
Rosanne Cash
1981

Written by Rosanne Cash

In the 1980s, Rosanne Cash earned 11 #1 singles, more than any female artist other than Reba McEntire. The one that still resounds most is her take on the seven-year itch. With “Seven Year Ache”, Cash showed a skill for writing (and performing) songs in the progressive country movement, songs with smarts and the ability to appeal to diverse audiences.

Throughout her career, Cash has created music that sends a distinct message, and “Seven Year Ache” is no different. The song matches a tough-girl delivery with a biting, cynical lyric about a man and his restless ways, culminating in another night out on the town. It’s a cutting indictment that is equal parts attitude and apathy, with Cash seeming both angry with her man’s transgressions and tired of scolding his behavior.

Her antagonist is “face down in a memory, but feeling alright,” no doubt gaining the pleasure in the female attention while experiencing the pain of past memories that haunt him. Both the men and women in the bar are entranced by his every move as he flirts and finds a way to inspire both jealousy and attraction. Cash admonishes her man for being “someone he’s not” and “looking careless” as he barely bothers to consider his surroundings, but instead searches for the next cheap thrill.

Cash’s ex-husband and former producer, Rodney Crowell, is often credited for inspiring “Seven Year Ache,” but, in an interview with Bill Deyoung, Cash said, “The real inspiration came for me because Rickie Lee Jones’ first album came out, and I was so moved by it, and so inspired, I thought ‘There’s never been a country song about street life, about life on the streets.'” This inspiration led her to write more than four pages of lyrics before trimming the song into a three-minute master class of love’s longing, loneliness and lingering frustration.

“Seven Year Ache” earned Cash her first Grammy nomination, and remains her signature song, a #1 single in 1981. It was the title track of her second country disc, a four-star effort in Rolling Stone, and a staple in modern mainstream country music in the early 1980s. Country fans were re-introduced to the classic song in 2001, when Trisha Yearwood (with some assistance from Cash herself) included her own take on the track on her album Inside Out. But it is Rosanne Cash, eloquent in her words and aware in her actions that defined love’s ups and downs with this trademark tune.

“Seven Year Ache” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.

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9 Comments

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9 Responses to Classic Country Singles: Rosanne Cash, “Seven Year Ache”

  1. I’m really liking your work on this series, Blake. Keep it up!

  2. Another great classic single, I love both the original and Trisha’s cover, although Trisha’s voice pulls me in on her’s a bit more. This is really a timeless single.

  3. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Great single – I remember when this single came out, that it got nearly as much airplay on pop and rock stations as it did on country radio. I’m not sure it would have been played on country radio had it been released two years earlier or five years later – it just barely fit the format at the time it came out

  4. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Another great one!

  5. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    I think “Seven Year Ache” is a perfect example of blending elements from different types of musical genres and still making it a great country song. Still sounds fresh today.

  6. I’ve had this stuck in my head all day today. Perfect timing for this entry, given the news from the past two days. Cash is always classy.

  7. Tad

    One of the few country/new wave crossover songs that still works (compare “Seven Year Ache” with Sylvia’s “Nobody” and notice how dated the latter sounds). Although the song is top notch all across the board, my favorite moment would have to be when the pedal steel enters in the instrumental. Not a lot of singles aimed at both pop and country have the guts to put steel up front like that; usually they’re just mixed low in the background. Very gutsy song, lyrically and musically.

  8. Eloquent review. It provides nice background to a song and singer that stayed in my favorites.