Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Trisha Yearwood, “The Woman Before Me”

“The Woman Before Me”

Trisha Yearwood

Written by Jude Johnstone

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

June 5, 1992

Country music’s first multi-platinum debut female artist earns her second No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

With “She’s in Love With the Boy,” Trisha Yearwood had already become the first female country artist since Connie Smith to top the charts with a debut single.  Two more top ten hits followed from her debut album, Trisha Yearwood: “Like We Never Had a Broken Heart” and “That’s What I Like About You.”  MCA closed out the album with “The Woman Before Me, ” which became Yearwood’s second No. 1 single.

The No. 1

Yearwood’s strong ear for material served her well from early on.  Jude Johnstone would be responsible for the title track of Yearwood’s stunning sophomore set, but she earned the most Yearwood royalties off of this song, which was originally being pitched to male artists as “The Fella Before Me.”

The merciful gender switch and innocence of Yearwood’s vocal performance work well together.  This doesn’t have the depth or sharp melancholy of her later ballads, but that works to her advantage here, as it’s difficult to imagine her being quite this earnest about being blamed for the failings of the last lover on her later records.

The Road From No. 1

Trisha Yearwood became the fastest debut album by a female country artist to be certified platinum, and would eventually be the first one to be certified double platinum.  Yearwood and her producer, Garth Fundis, had been told there would be a fifth single, which they hoped would be “Lonesome Dove.”  Plans changed when MCA wanted to capitalize on her popularity by having her second album out for the fall of 1992.

The album wasn’t finished by the time they picked the first single, choosing “Wrong Side of Memphis” over “You Say You Will,” even though it didn’t have its fiddle track laid down yet when the label heard it.  It went top five, as did its follow-up, “Walkaway Joe,” which featured harmonies from Don Henley.

Hearts in Armor received rave reviews and sold well, but it didn’t have the same success at radio as her debut album, with its third and fourth single both falling short of the Billboard top ten.  Yearwood would return to the top of the singles chart in late 1993, with the lead single from her third studio set.

“The Woman Before Me” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Given that she was one of the many female artists who came out of the early 1990’s country music boom, it is sometimes a bit too easy, in my opinion, to take the woman whom I will not refer to as “Mrs. Garth Brooks” (LOL) for granted. It seems particularly true these days since, unless you’re Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood, you won’t exactly find any love on country radio if you’re a woman, even with something as worthwhile as what Trisha had in 1992 with “The Woman Before Me” or, more recently, with “Every Girl In This Town”.

    I also think one of the reasons Trisha is sometimes taken for granted in Music City, and why she makes some people nervous, is her deep-seated admiration for Linda Ronstadt, who was always something of an outlier with her left-of-center West Coast approach but which doesn’t seem to bother peers like Trisha. It’s not necessarily apparent on “The Woman Before Me”, but it would be apparent on albums and songs to come.

  2. Similar to Pam Tillis, I never realized that Trisha had so few number ones in the early 90’s. Of all the singles she released from 1991 to around early 1993, this is the only one that I have very little to no recollection of hearing on the radio back then. For me, that makes it all the more surprising that this was one of the only ones to reach the top. That being said, this is another song of hers I really enjoy, and I’m glad it was a number one! I didn’t truly discover it until I bought her first album in the early 00’s, and I instantly fell in love with it, along with the rest of the album. I really love her voice on this song, though I agree with Kevin that she’d likely sing it a different way if it were on any of her later albums.

    Btw, I had absolutely NO clue that this was originally written as a song for a guy to sing! I did find out a while back that “That’s What I Like About You” was also a song that switched genders when Trisha recorded it (James House, I believe, did the original on one of his obscure early 90’s MCA albums). Also, I never knew that “Lonesome Dove” was possibly going to be a fifth single from this album. I really love that song! Pretty interesting reading that, along with “Wrong Side Of Memphis” being rushed to radio. Thanks for sharing these juicy tidbits with us! :D

    I have to say, I’m especially quite shocked that neither “Wrong Side Of Memphis” or “Walkaway Joe” made it to the top on any chart. Both songs were a regular presence on the radio throughout late ’92 and early ’93 for us, and I consider both songs to be an essential part of my childhood’s soundtrack. Plus, they just always seemed to be regarded as two of her biggest hits. I also absolutely adore the Hearts In Armor album! :)

  3. This lyrics listens like Jude Johnstone channeling his inner Matraca Berg.

    I love how clean this songs sounds. Yearwood is already in full control of her voice.

    A brilliant showcase for her talent. I admire this song so much.

  4. Kevin – Again, pretty interesting info concerning those photos! There’s actually another picture from the same photo shoot in one of the ’92 issues of Country Music Magazine that was never cropped. I personally see nothing wrong with it!

    • I believe so. I think Lorrie Morgan’s first album went platinum after Yearwood’s, so she’d be the second. I confused “first to go platinum in a year” with first to go platinum, so I adjusted the post to acknowledge this being the earliest debut album by a female artist to go multiplatinum. Yearwood’s got that on lock, even though Wynonna’s 1992 debut technically got there faster.

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