Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Garth Brooks, “The Dance”

“The Dance”

Garth Brooks

Written by Tony Arata


#1 (3 weeks)

June 14 – June 28, 1990

Radio & Records

#1 (3 weeks)

June 22 – July 6, 1990

A masterpiece kicks off the run of singles that will make Garth Brooks the biggest country star of all-time.

The Road to No. 1

After going top ten with his debut single, “Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old),” Garth Brooks had topped both charts with “If Tomorrow Never Comes” in 1989, and then had an R&R No. 1 with his third single, “Not Counting You.”   But his debut album, which would eventually sell ten million copies, didn’t reach gold status until August 1990, powered to that sales level by a career single that topped both charts weeks earlier.

The No. 1

Like “Here in the Real World” earlier this year, it’s hard to write something about “The Dance” that hasn’t already been said.  It’s one of those defining songs of the nineties boom, where a beautifully written song was given a heartfelt performance that was powerful enough to convert rock and pop listeners into country music fans.

“The Dance” could just as easily be about loss of love as about loss of life, a dual meaning that Brooks further explored with a moving music video.  Over the years, it’s the second interpretation that has been embraced the most, with “The Dance” becoming a standard played at funerals and memorial services.

But if you can try to listen to it with fresh ears again, it’s worth revisiting how well it works as a love gone wrong song, too.  The sentiment is potent either way: It’s worth the suffering and pain that comes with an ending, because you can’t miss out on it without also missing out on the experience that you are grieving for.

There can be no meaningful discussion of the greatest country records of all time without including “The Dance.”

The Road From No. 1

This is where the Garth phenomenon truly begins.  The debut album that sixteen months to go gold would be platinum less than two months later.  Meanwhile, Garth would preview his second studio album with another career record, which will top the singles chart three months after “The Dance” vacated the top spot.

“The Dance” gets an A. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: George Strait, “Love Without End, Amen” | Next: Randy Travis, “He Walked On Water”



  1. Although not his best song (either “If Tomorrow Never Comes” or “Unanswered Prayers” would fit that bill), it is certainly one of his better songs, and worthy of its ‘A’ rating

  2. Great song. It’s my most frequently played GB song in my i-tunes library. Saw sole song writer Tony Arata sing it the 2 times I saw him at the Bluebird Cafe.

  3. This is a country song that people who didn’t like country music got behind. Garth’s ability to cross music aisles started here.

    The piano and poetry of this production are stunning. I wouldn’t argue with you if you told me it is his best song. It certainly is his most important song.

    I remember playing “The Dance” specifically for anyone who would listen. It stood out to me as something special and powerful. I loved sharing it with people.

    Such an important song in the history of country music.

  4. I’m inclined in a lot of ways to believe that this kind of material is closer to who Garth envisions himself to be in reality I suppose the problem I’ve often had with him is that his big stage spectacles, inspired by the arena-rock of the 1980’s, really tend to overshadow that side of him. I know he has won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s and the ACM’s more times than most people can remember; but I do wonder if that is how people are going to remember him, for the awards, and not necessarily what those awards were actually for.

  5. I have to say that I was one of those folk that didn’t like country music. I had dipped a little into Alabama (as I have been a Canadian Crimson Tide fan since the 70’s) and randy Travis. I bought Clint Black’s “Killin’ Time ” album…then THIS song and,especially, the video made me realize what a great , great bunch of songs and songwriters country had and, potentially, has to offer.

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