After the loud, thumping, controversial nature of “Indian Outlaw”, it’s a good thing that Tim McGraw had another trick in his bag to be found on that second album, which needed to be successful after his debut album, as he has stated, “went wood.” There’s little doubt that the sappy, three act single is what catapulted McGraw’s status to the superstar level that he’s enjoyed since.
The story goes from an eight-year-old Johnny begging his father not to include “the Girl” in their fishing outing to the same boy, now a young man, willing to do anything to protect the, presumably, same girl. the simplistic pull-at-the-heartstrings story song was not the type of single that was dominating country music at the time of its early mid-nineties release. What’s more, McGraw’s early exaggerated twang and an amped up production to match helped to make the sing-able song even more attractive to country music listeners whose emotions had been easily stirred by the touching story of Johnny and “the girl” with no name.
Patriarchal implications aside, “Don’t Take the Girl” was a perfect recipe for a quick heart melting experience. And while it is likely considered one of McGraw’s signature songs that must be sung at every concert to this day, it is too simplistic and, ultimately, predictable to have a lasting effect beyond the first few experiences of hearing it. Instead, it’s become more of a cringe inducer than a tear jerker.
Written by Craig Martin & Larry Johnson
Listen: Don’t Take the Girl