Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Clay Walker, “Live Until I Die”

“Live Until I Die”

Clay Walker

Written by Clay Walker

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

January 29, 1994

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 21, 1994

Clay Walker is wise beyond his years on his second No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

After scoring a No. 1 single with his debut hit, “What’s it to You,” he repeated the trick with his second single.

The No. 1

“Live Until I Die” opens with a beautiful fiddle introduction that previews the melody of the chorus.   It sets up a more conventional country record than its predecessor was, leaning heavily into nostalgia and keeping the proceedings understated throughout.

Walker was 24 years old when this song was on its chart run, and like a year or two younger when he wrote it.  It comes off as a young man making a declaration of the simple life that he wants to lead, well before life decides whether or not it has other plans for him.

He sings it effectively, with his genuine commitment to his way of life shining through.  I reckon it sounds even better now when he does it live, with a few more years of living under his belt.

The Road From No. 1

The ballad “Where Do I Fit in the Picture” came next, and it barely missed the Billboard top ten.  He’d return to the top with the fourth and best single from his debut album. We’ll get to it later in 1994.

“Live Until I Die” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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6 Comments

  1. In revisiting Walker’s singles, I may have initially individually burdened him too heavily with the responsibility for a sound that really was Nashville’s mark on so many releases from this point of the nineties. Identifying country music as a viable dance music all but guaranteed the volume would be dialed up on many songs coming out of Music Row. The same goes for the punchy, slappy sound of the drums that also were moved forward in so many sound mixes on the singles sent to radio. Walker was certainly not the only artist whose music sounded like this.

    I can certainly better appreciate Walker’s skills as a vocalist in this song. He sounds sincere and more settled than in his debut. Yet, there was still something about him that never drove me to purchase an album or explore his music more deeply. He was firmly a radio artist for me at the time.

    It’s crazy how a featured fiddle can just set the tone for a song, no?

    • I was fully immersed in country music at this point, and I liked Clay Walker a lot from day one. I never really associated him with the dance craze sound, though he was definitely energetic on record. I think he managed to survive the decade without being associated with a line dance, which was no small feat in those days.

      He’s got at least four more No. 1 singles on deck that I love before this feature is through.

      • Kevin – I also liked Clay Walker from day one. I mentioned in a previous post that Clay Walker helped me get interested in country music as a young teenager and he was my favourite artist for a long time. For some reason, I don’t go back and listen to his music much anymore, but, when I do, it still holds up well.

        Anyways, I really like this song and album and I’m looking forward to his next #1 entry as well.

  2. This is still one of my favorite Clay Walker songs of all time. As I mentioned in the “What’s It To You” entry, Clay’s debut album is one of the cd’s I picked out for my 15th birthday, and this song was one of the main reasons. I had always liked it when I got back into listening to country radio throughout the mid 90’s, but I remember just suddenly falling in love with it the one time I heard it playing in the car around 1997 while my parents and I were on vacation in Maine. The pretty, catchy melody combined the lyrics of wanting a simple life and Clay’s charming, authentic sounding vocals just somehow really appealed to me.

    It actually sounds like he could’ve been listening to a lot of Randy Travis or Paul Overstreet when he wrote it, because it definitely reminds me of something that either of those two could’ve had a hit with earlier in the decade. That’s, needless to say, a major plus to me, since I love both artists. Most of my favorite Clay songs also have this easy going charm to them combined with neo-traditional arrangements. I’ve always loved the beautiful fiddle work throughout this track, as well as the dobro playing. I’m also reminded that one of the things I’ve always loved about James Stroud’s production work from the early 90’s is how frequently he used the dobro.

    Kevin – I’ve also never associated Clay with the “line dance” sound because I can’t think of any of his songs being tied to the line dance craze (Though “If I Could Make A Living” is definitely a dance friendly song.) Anyway, I’ve always really liked Clay, too, and I never knew how unpopular he was with critics at the time until I cracked open some vintage issues of Country Music Magazine.

    Peter – I hear you on the drums getting louder for several of the dance friendly singles that were gaining popularity around this time. While much of the music from earlier in the decade was very acoustic guitar driven, with the fiddle and steel, dobro, etc. front and center, they were beginning to take a backseat to the drums and electric guitars being cranked up for those punchy dance beats. I think James Stroud and Don Cook were the biggest culprits of this, but I guess nearly every mainstream country producer was guilty of it at one time in the mid 90’s (well, except maybe Garth Fundis).

  3. I asssume in some dance bar in the 90s, somebody tried making a line dance of both “If I Could Make a Living” (like Jamie said, it’s dance friendly), as well as “Only on Days That End in ‘Y’”.

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