Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Tracy Lawrence, “Time Marches On”

“Time Marches On

Tracy Lawrence

Written by Bobby Braddock


#1 (3 weeks)

June 22 – July 6, 1996

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

June 21, 1996

Tracy Lawrence’s timeless signature hit.

The Road to No. 1

Tracy Lawrence launched his fourth studio album with “If You Loved Me,” which went top five and was his fourteenth consecutive top ten hit.  He returned to the top with the title track from Time Marches On, which became his signature hit.

The No. 1

“The only thing that stays the same is everything changes. Everything changes.”

The brilliance of “Time Marches On” is its banality. We get toss away details about four members of a nuclear family, starting while the son and daughter are quite little. Then we check in with them again as the kids are somewhere in early adulthood, and by the third verse, they’re the aging grownups, while dad is gone and mom is “out of touch with reality.”

The economy of the songwriting here is remarkable.  We only get three details each about four family members, a total of twelve lines throughout the entire song.  Yet we witness massive shifts in society as this family ages, with references to Hank Williams and Bob Dylan, birth and death, marijuana and clear complexion soap, extramarital affairs and struggles with mental health.  It’s specific and it’s universal.  The details don’t all carry meaningfulness on their own, but collectively they tell the story of a family and the country they live in during three generations of their lives.

Lawrence follows the sage advice of Patty Loveless: that the job of the singer is to not get in the way of the song.  He emotes at all the right places, but he knows how strong this lyric is, and he gives an understated performance that lets the storytelling shine.

This is in the same league as “Sticks and Stones” and “Alibis,” a standout moment of excellence in a radio run that was consistently strong from start to finish.  Put simply, one of the best from one of the best.

The Road From No.1

“Time Marches On” helped push its parent album to double platinum, matching Lawrence’s previous career sales high with Alibis.  Two more No. 1 singles are on deck from the album, and we’ll cover the next one soon.

“Time Marches On” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Toby Keith, “Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You” |

Next: Alan Jackson, “Home”



  1. Agree with your rating. Love this song.

    years later, whenever i heard a certain small part of a different song i’d think of “Time Marches On”
    Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
    Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
    And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down

    • Merry Go Round also reminded me of some of Mary Chapin Carpemters stuff, such as House of Cards or He Thinks He’ll Keep Her

  2. Considering just how great his run of hits was I am wondering if he’ll see the Hall Of Fame in his lifetime. After the superstars of the 90’s are in I think he has a good chance to be inducted fairly quickly.

    This song is simply exquisite and one of the essential 90’s classics, my 2nd favourite from Tracy!

    • There are more worthy Hall of Fame inductees from the nineties than any era in country music history. Tracy Lawrence should be a slam dunk, though he will wait longer than he should have to if they keep up the draconian induction pace.

  3. I will mash-up comments from Kevin and Kanenrake Stacey and agree that the economy of the songwriting is exquisite. The song is a wonder, a gift. It is brilliant.

    A career could hang alone on recording a song of this quality. Thankfully, this feature has reminded us of how deep Lawrence’s songbook is!

  4. Another winner penned by Bobby Braddock. Another phenomenal performance from Tracy Lawrence.

    Bobby Braddock needs a “not you” meme made for his career with eight of his classics surrounding the dreadful “I Wanna Talk About Me”.

    • Braddock loved to write silly numbers like “I Wanna Talk About Me.” Two of his earliest hits were for the Statler Brothers: “You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith Too” and “Ruthless.”

      A sample of the latter:

      Who always cooked my steaks and cooked ’em rare – Ruth
      When the chips were down who was always there – Ruth
      And to whom did I swear up and down I’d always tell the truth
      E-del-o-da-la-de who in the world but Ruth

      But now I’m as ruthless as can be
      Ruthless since Ruth walked out to me
      Now I had hopes that someday old Ruth would be my wife
      But it looks like I’ll be ruthless all my life

      I mentally group “I Wanna Talk About Me” with his novelty numbers like those and “I Don’t Remember Loving You,” a John Conlee record that is completely wackadoo in all the best ways.

  5. I was not familiar with “Ruthless” so I just listened on YouTube. That one’s at least clever.

    I guess to that point then, at least songwriters last century could branch out and write a bunch of different songs that were completely different from some of their other biggest cuts (example, some of the Dennis Linde cuts in this feature and upcoming). These days, most of the Nashville factory is immediately recognizable with no variety (Hardy comes to mind).

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