Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Billy Dean, “Somewhere in My Broken Heart”

“Somewhere in My Broken Heart”

Billy Dean

Written by Billy Dean and Richard Leigh

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

July 12, 1991

Another young nineties star tops the charts for the first time.

The Road to No. 1

Florida-born Billy Dean was involved in music since early childhood, playing in his father’s band at the age of eight.  He demonstrated aptitude in sports, earning a college basketball scholarship, and booked commercials as a budding actor.   But he kept returning to music, appearing on televised talent shows and honing his songwriting craft until he earned a recording contract with SBK/Liberty Records.

His first single, 1990’s “Lowdown Lonely,” failed to chart.  But his next release, “Only Here For a Little While,” was a top five breakthrough hit.  For his third single from his debut album, Young Man, the label chose a song that had Dean had co-written with Richard Leigh of “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue” fame and that had first been recorded by Randy Travis.

The No. 1

“Somewhere in My Broken Heart” is a gorgeous ballad that captures a man demonstrating unconditional love through letting go.

Once again, a new artist has completely identified their own style early on, with Dean’s vocal being perfectly matched to a simple, mostly acoustic arrangement.  He’s not a pure country singer, so it’s important for arrangements to be organic to keep him firmly placed within the genre.

Still, this is more James Taylor than George Jones.   But even the early nineties were a bigger tent than usually given credit for today.  Suzy Bogguss and Mary Chapin Carpenter mined a similiar folk-inspired sound on their early records.

Of Dean’s three nineties chart-toppers, this one is easily the best.

The Road From No. 1

Dean was named ACM Top New Male Vocalist on the strength of this hit, winning over Mark Chesnutt and Joe Diffie.  That same evening, he won the Song of the Year award for “Somewhere in My Broken Heart.”  He followed his first No. 1 hit with “You Don’t Count the Cost” and “Only the Wind” from his sophomore self-titled album.  They both went top five.  After that, his next two singles went to No. 1.  We’ll cover them both when we get to 1992.

“Somewhere in My Broken Heart” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Always loved his song so A is good with me. Only got to see Dean once –
    Apr 29 – Billy Dean, Michael Peterson, Jason Scheff & Aaron Barker (2009) at the Bluebird. There was a tour I missed out on, Berry, Bogguss & Dean. The timing and locations just never worked out.

    love Dean’s duet with Suzy Bogguss, Something Up My Sleeve, a true duet with each artist contributing equally not merely singing backup.

    KJC – you say that “this is more James Taylor than George Jones”. in my book that’s a plus. I was a JT fan long before I ever heard of Jones.

  2. I remember the song from NO HOLDING BACK, the third album WB album for Randy Travis. I liked Randy’s version better than Dean’s hit version, but I don’t think the song itself is all that good. If I recall correctly it fell a couple of notches short of #1 on Billboard. I also recall it getting significant airplay on local A/C stations so I assume that it charted A/C as well as country.

  3. Good song! I was a Billy Dean fan in the nineties and I still like some of his songs now, including the two that didn’t make it to number one, “You Don’t Count the Cost” and “Only the Wind.” I’m surprised those songs didn’t make it to the top.

  4. Always really loved this song! I remember hearing this one a lot on the radio after my parents and I got back from a vacation to Hawaii we went on in 1991. I’ve always loved this song’s beautiful melody, along with the more contemporary leaning arrangement which fits Billy Dean’s style perfectly. And once again, it hits my soft spot for songs about being willing to let someone you love go, even if you really don’t want to.

    Billy Dean is another artist who would become one of my favorites in the early 90’s, especially around late 1992/early 1993. My step dad bought his 1991 self-titled album for me on cd around that time, as well. Like Leeann, I also really like “You Don’t Count The Cost” and “Only The Wind,” and both bring back some really good memories for me. For instance, I remember seeing the video for “Only The Wind” for the first time with my dad when I was over at his house. I also love “Only Here For A Little While,” which also really takes me back, and I actually remember hearing it during that Hawaii trip.

    Btw, this is another song in which I also love the video. The beach and city settings are absolutely perfect for the song’s smooth contemporary style, and I especially love the night time scenes with all the buildings lit up. And it still kills me near the end when Billy says “I’m just not ready yet” when one of his friends tries to set him up with another woman.

  5. Such an elegant and clean performance of a sensitive and thoughtful lyric. That non-traditional country artists like Dean could reach the top of the charts along side the new traditionalists speaks to just how big the tent was country music pitched in this era.

    It bears repeating that this diversity and ecumenical sense of what was country is what made the 90’s such a powerfully creative and dynamic era.

    I think this song is stunning.

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