September 15, 2008
Written by Mark D. Sanders & Tia Sillers
Although her traditional leanings are the cornerstone of her career, the most notable song of Lee Ann Womack’s career is the international smash “I Hope You Dance,” a message of belief that struck a chord with millions of country music fans and brought Womack’s music to a mainstream audience.
Written by Tia Sillers and Mark D. Sanders, it expresses the need to make positive choices and take chances in life, regardless of their consequence. As Sillers explained, “For ‘I Hope You Dance,’ I had written the opening line, ‘I hope you never lose your sense of wonder’. I had just broken up with someone, (and was) going through a brutal divorce.” During a vacation to the beach, Sillers was inspired by her surroundings and found the direction for the rest of the song, with lyrics such as “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean/Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens”.
The following week, Sillers returned to Nashville and collaborated on the song with Mark Sanders. Once the demo was recorded, Sillers’ publishing representatives played “I Hope You Dance” for Lee Ann Womack’s producer, Mark Wright. Wright then relayed the song to Womack, who loved the universal message of perseverance and built her third studio album around the Sillers-Sanders creation. Womack sang the song accompanied by harmony vocals from country group Sons Of The Desert, who provided the perfect stamp to the song about living life to its fullest and loving unconditionally with their harmony in the chorus:
Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along, tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone
“I Hope You Dance” was named the title of Womack’s album, and the single had an immediate impact at radio. The inspiring ballad soon turned into Womack’s first No. 1 single, and it eventually became the No. 2 country single of 2000 and the No. 1 adult contemporary single of 2001. Womack’s album of the same name went triple-platinum, and the song won the Triple Crown, the achievement of winning Song of the Year at the Grammys, the ACMs and the CMAs. It also claimed the Single of the Year categories from the ACMs and CMAs, and launched Womack into another level of her career, culminating in a victory as Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2001 CMAs.
Nashville book publisher Rutledge Hill Press asked the songwriters to write a book about the song, and it entered the New York Times bestseller list shortly after release. Also, Womack was asked to perform the song at the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. At any number of weddings, graduations and other lifetime milestone events, “I Hope You Dance” continues to be a popular anthem, rich with the ideas of faith, fight and fearlessness on life’s long and winding road.
“I Hope You Dance” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.