“Can’t Be Really Gone“
Written by Gary Burr
Radio & Records
#1 (4 weeks)
December 15, 1995 – January 5, 1996
Tim McGraw’s journey to greatness begins.
The Road to No. 1
All I Want launched with the 5-week Billboard No. 1, “I Like it, I Love it.” Its second single stopped at No. 2 on that listing, but spent four weeks at the top of the Radio & Records chart, closing out 1995 and spilling over to 1996.
The No. 1
Before the third verse arrives, “Can’t Be Really Gone” is already leagues beyond anything Tim McGraw had released until that point. It’s a smart, tender ballad with a keen eye for detail, as the lover left behind clings to abandoned mementos. She might not value him enough to come back, but what about that hat from Mexico and those shoes from Christmas Eve?
It’s been 27 years, and I can still remember the impact of hearing that third verse for the first time, and realizing immediately that McGraw was going to be more than just a moderately entertaining superstar churning out radio filler:
Her book is lying on the bed
The two of hearts to mark her page
Now who could ever walk away at chapter twenty one
So she can’t be really gone
McGraw’s path to legendary status in the genre and his inevitable induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame begins with that line. It was the first indication that he had a strong enough ear for material to stand out among the crowded nineties field by making better music than most of his hat-donning contemporaries, even though nearly all of them were more technically proficient singers.
McGraw will spend more time on the top of the singles chart than anyone else over the next ten years, and he’ll do it with compelling and often challenging compositions that he’ll deliver as tastefully as he does here.
The Road From No. 1
“All I Want is a Life” went top five, and the fourth single from All I Want then returned McGraw to the top. We’ll cover it in 1996.
“Can’t Be Really Gone” gets an A.