“Time Marches On“
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.
Next: Alan Jackson, “Home”