Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Garth Brooks, “Learning to Live Again”

“Learning to Live Again”

Garth Brooks

Written by Stephanie Davis and Don Schlitz

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 2, 1993

A touching ballad about starting all over again.

The Road to No. 1

After a shaky start at radio with “We Shall Be Free,” The Chase produced three No. 1 hits.  This is the second of the three, and the only one to miss the top of the Billboard chart.

The No. 1

If this feature has been a reminder of anything for me, it’s been of how damn good Garth Brooks was back in the day.

At its best, country music puts into words our most private thoughts and particular experiences, finding something universal in the sharing of the specific.

“Learning to Live Again” is a perfect example of this, capturing the complex emotions and nervous mistakes of a recently divorced man getting ready for his first date in many years.  And on a double date, no less!

Little cafe, table for four
But there’s just conversation for three
And I like the way she let me get the door
And I wonder what she thinks of me
Debbie just whispered, “You’re doin’ fine”
And I wish that I felt the same
She’s asked me to dance, now her hand’s in mine
Oh, my God, I’ve forgotten her name

This is some masterful songwriting, heightened by a masterful vocal performance from Brooks that captures a wounded man approaching a new relationship with a mix of hope and caution.

The third verse reveal that his potential new love has been feeling those same emotions throughout the evening is an especially beautiful ending because it doesn’t provide a pat resolution in the form of “happily ever after.”

These are two people learning to live again because a part of them has died, and they’re going to be a little wary getting back in the game.  But maybe they’ve found the right person to do that with.

The Road From No. 1

A much less believable storyline is up next.  Garth had a great year at radio in 1993.

“Learning to Live Again” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Brooks sounds vulnerable and believable. All the little details are so relatable. I love how Debbie becomes Deb in just one line. The song is conversational and comfortable in its honesty and simplicity, even as the narrator is wracked with anxiety.

    The production is spot on. I love how the steel guitar cuts through the song.

    Easily one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs.

  2. This is definitely another one of my favorites of Garth’s ballads, and it’s become one of my favorite songs of his of all time. I agree with all the comments on Garth’s performance, and it very well reflects all the anxiety the narrator is going through, and I love how detailed of a story the song tells, which seems so rare for mainstream country today. I’ve always loved the twist in the end, as well, when it is revealed that the woman is also learning to live again. I’ve always simply loved the entire production on this number too, especially the strings in the background, and as usual for a Garth record, some great steel playing from Bruce Bouton.

    This was one of the last new Garth Brooks songs I remember hearing on the radio and recording on one of my tapes before I started listening to the oldies station more often later somewhere in the Spring of ’93. Then around 2000-2001, I heard it a few times on one of our stations as a recurrent and always enjoyed it then. But it was when I finally picked up a copy of The Chase somewhere in the early 00’s that I truly fell in love with this song, and it was always one of the tracks I’d repeat over and over when listening to that album. It’s an album I remember listening to often whenever we went to Fredericksburg, VA a lot around that time. It’s too bad that this song has seemingly become one of his less remembered ones, and also one he rarely performs live anymore.

    Non-singles on The Chase that I really like are: “Every Now And Then” (another one I’d listen to over and over), his version of “Walking After Midnight,” “Night Rider’s Lament,” and the swinging “Mr. Right.” While I like this first three a little better, this is also one of my favorite albums of his.

  3. Thinking more about this song I am reminded that my university roommate absolutely loved this song. He always thought it would be cool if someone wrote a response-song from the woman’s perspective. Will the narrator ever get to see her again? We’ll see…..

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