Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: George Strait, “I Cross My Heart”

“I Cross My Heart”

George Strait

Written by Steve Dorff and Eric Kaz

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

November 21 – November 28, 1992

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

December 5 – December 12, 1992

George Strait goes Hollywood with surprising results.

The Road to No. 1

Strait had been on top only a few weeks earlier with “So Much Like My Dad,” but its host album was selling slower than his previous efforts.  However, his starring role in Pure Country would launch him to new sales heights, buoyed by the success of its lead single.

The No. 1

“I Cross My Heart” is such a signature George Strait song that it’s hard to believe that it’s origins were anything but pure country.

But it was written with Boyz II Men in mind, and was originally recorded by Bette Midler for her own movie soundtrack.  But when she couldn’t get the song to work and dropped it from the film, it found its way to being the climactic love song of Strait’s Pure Country film.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has called George Strait the Frank Sinatra of traditional country music. But it’s an apt comparison, because for all that he has been imitated, Strait’s vocal style cannot be replicated.

And the man is a stylist, one of the finest to ever step up to a mic.  He makes it look easy, but “I Cross My Heart” works because of his sophisticated phrasing and his deliberate emphasis of individual words and phrases to heighten the emotional impact of the lyrics.

It’s a wedding standard not only because of its thematic content, but because Strait makes this love feel like it’s for life with his performance.  When he sings the bridge – “If along the way we find a day it starts to storm. You’ve got the promise of my love to keep you warm” – you know for sure that he’s all in.

The Road From No. 1

Pure Country has another No. 1 hit on the way, and we’ll see it in early 1993.  Strait’s nineties renaissance has officially begun.

“I Cross My Heart” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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4 Comments

  1. I had no idea this was originally meant to be a pop song! Once again, it’s something pretty cool that I’ve learned from this feature.

    This has always been one of my favorites of Strait’s love songs, and I love how much you emphasized his phrasing and the emotion he puts in his performance, especially on the bridge, which has always been one of my favorite parts of the song. Sadly, there aren’t too many modern male country artists today I can think of who could pull this beautiful song off as convincingly as George does here. I’ve always loved the gorgeous steel solo after the bridge, as well. Even that opening with the fiddle tells me immediately I’m in for a treat. This song is just one of the many examples on why I love it when George Strait does love ballads, because they always just sound so genuinely sincere coming from him.

    As many times as I’ve heard this one as a recurrent throughout the 90’s and into the early 00’s, I’ve still never once gotten tired of hearing it. In fact, I was so used to hearing it as a recurrent during the mid-late 90’s and early 00’s that I had almost forgotten that it originally came out in ’92 (I didn’t get to see Pure Country when it first came out). It wasn’t until I had revisited a tape I recorded from the radio around early ’93 that the memories of hearing this song in the early 90’s came back. I actually remember around 1993 my step dad playing that tape on the little pink radio we had on the table next to my bed to help me fall asleep, because I was still having a hard time sleeping by myself in what was still my new room.

    I always really enjoyed the video for this song, as well. Even though it’s pretty much just a bunch of clips from the movie, it somehow really fits the song well for me. Pure Country has also become one of my all time favorite movies! :)

    It’s simply amazing how quickly this one rose to the top when “So Much Like My Dad” had been number one not too long before it. It really shows how unstoppable the Pure Country juggernaut was, and it’s easy to see how Holding My Own and its singles were quickly forgotten/overshadowed, even though that was a pretty fine album in its own right, imo.

  2. In addition to his phrasing, Strait’s ability to echo his many musical influences in his vocals without ever sounding exactly like them add to his singular charm as a stylist. I intermittently hear anyone from Eddie Arnold to Hank Thompson to Merle Haggard to Lefty Frizzell when Strait sings.

    In this song, he is consummately his own country star. He pulls all the right heart strings. This song might have been a clumsy, Hallmark,saw-it-a-mile-away, hanging curveball kind of a ballad in another lesser singer’s hands. But Strait knocks it out of the park with his laconic charm and sincerity.

    The only other contemporary male artist who might be in Strait’s league, with his ability to emote a phrase or single word to full effect, is Gary Allan.

  3. As a footnote: Eric Kaz, who co-wrote “I Cross My Heart”, is also known for penning songs like “Love Has No Pride” and “Cry Like A Rainstorm” that both Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt have recorded.

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