Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Alabama, “Once Upon a Lifetime”

“Once Upon a Lifetime”


Written by Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

March 5, 1993

One of Alabama’s weaker efforts.

The Road to No. 1

“I’m in a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why)” was a major hit for Alabama, and preceded this new single at the top.   This is the second of three consecutive No. 1 single from American Pride.

The No. 1

This song makes absolutely no sense to me.

I think what they’re going for is one of those “three vignettes” songs that add up to a larger story.

For me, it doesn’t work because of the discordant note struck by the second verse.  The first and third verses capture a couple losing their virginity together and welcoming a baby, respectively.  But the second verse and the bridge seem to be about losing the love of your life.

Maybe there’s a narrative thread I’m missing.  Alabama ballads were what we used before Ambien hit the market.  But I’m pretty sure that this is just a mess.

The Road From No. 1

Another two chart toppers are on the way from Alabama in 1993, so we’ll be seeing them again soon.

“Once Upon a Lifetime” gets a C-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Lorrie Morgan, “What Part of No” |

Next: Tanya Tucker, “It’s a Little Too Late”



  1. Nostalgia and my general love for sentimental early 90’s country ballads will come to play once again, because I really love this song, and it’s always been one of my favorites of Alabama’s ballads. I think it’s quite beautiful overall, and I especially like Randy Owen’s warm lower register vocals on this one (which was typical of many of Alabama’s 90’s ballads). I especially like how he sings the very last line of the song starting with “People only find a love like yours and mine….” I’ve always loved the melody too, and even the opening and closing keyboard parts are very pretty.

    I remember liking this song the first few times hearing it as a seven year old in late 92/early ’93, and it’s always been one of my dad’s favorites, as well (who’s always been an Alabama fan). In the Christmas of 1992, I had received one of my favorite games, Ker Plunk, as a present, and one night a little while after that (somewhere in early ’93) my dad was over at our house, and we were both playing that game together downstairs. Then out of the blue while we were playing, he’d just sing out loud “Once Upon a Lifetime..” every once in a while. I remember him saying at the time that it was one of his new favorite songs, and he just had it stuck in his head that night. More than a decade after that, I made a mix cd of most all of the country hits from this late ’92/early ’93 period, and whenever I played it in the car with my dad, this was always one of his favorites on it, and I remember him saying that he hadn’t heard it in ages (It got little to no recurrent airplay in our area). Anyway, I will always associate this song with that one special memory I have of my dad and I playing one of my favorite childhood games together. :)

    When I revisited the song myself later as a teen, which was when I started paying closer attention to lyrics, I was also thrown off by that second verse, and I pretty much had the same thoughts as you. But after having heard it many more times after that, I’m just assuming that verse is meant to serve as a warning about “the chances you take,” which I always assumed meant the temptation to commit infidelity/adultery, and how “you stand to lose it all” if you give in to that temptation. I then see the third verse as the narrator maturing and settling down (and I’m assuming having resisted the urge to cheat), and being happy with the family life he’s made with that special someone. Overall, I really like what they were going for here, and while that second verse might still be a bit unclear (perhaps it’s up to the listener to decide what those “chances” are), it’s still quite a touching “three part story” to me. Anyway, just my two cents on it!

    Btw, this one also made it on to another one of my favorite tapes I recorded from the radio in ‘early ’93. It’s on the flip side of the My First Sony tape I mentioned in Lorrie Morgan’s “What Part of No,” and besides the Alabama song, it also includes “Seminole Wind” by John Anderson, “Mama’s Never Seen Those Eyes” by The Forester Sisters, “Sure Love” by Hal Ketchum, “Grandpa (Tell Me Bout The Good Old Days)” by the Judds, “Heroes” by Paul Overstreet, and “Neon Moon” by Brooks & Dunn.

  2. This has always been one of my favorite Alabama ballads. Randy Owen’s vocals has a lot of heart to it and I like it’s general idea. Good point about that middle verse though.

  3. This is probably the least memorable of Alabama’s hit singles. As noted the second verse strikes a jarring note – the song would be better with the verse simply omitted

  4. This is Alabama at their generic, anodyne, and milquetoast worst.
    The band has me feeling like a yo-yo on a string revisiting their hits. Just when I want to get behind them, they drizzle this sap over my expectations and hopes.

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