Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Garth Brooks, “That Ol’ Wind”

“That Ol’ Wind

Garth Brooks

Written by Garth Brooks and Leigh Reynolds

Radio & Records

#1 (3 weeks)

December 20, 1996 – January 3, 1997

Garth Brooks closes out 1996 with another implausible story song.

The Road to No. 1

After topping the charts with “The Beaches of Cheyenne,” Garth Brooks went top twenty with “The Change” and top five with “It’s Midnight Cinderella.”  The sixth and final single from Fresh Horses returned him to the top.

The No. 1

This plotline isn’t any more plausible than “The Beaches of Cheyenne,” but by performing it with understatement, Brooks makes it easier to suspend disbelief.

If I followed everything correctly, a woman hooks up with a rising star but doesn’t go with him to chase his dream.  He becomes a very big deal, returns to town, and they hook up again.  This time, he sticks around.  She’s got a kid that’s his.  He’s got some money stashed away.  Those are both still secrets as the song closes.

Brooks performs this so well that the details of the storyline are rendered irrelevant.  He emotes perfectly, so the feelings are completely believable.

Fresh Horses was an odd project overall, with a lot of big swings and misses.  But its best single is the one that could’ve fit sonically on any of his first three albums.

The Road From No. 1

Brooks surfaces next in a chart-topping duet with his future wife.  We’ll cover it later in 1997.

“That Ol’ Wind” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. So does that second chorus mean he stays in town and the bus drives off? If so, then why did they say goodbye? The outro implies they are together, right? I just don’t get it.

  2. I find it baffling a song can be #1 for three weeks on one chart, but then fail to reach the top spot on another. Probably a reason I don’t work in radio. Well, that and I am not a sexist bigot.

    • For Radio & Records, the long runs at No. 1 are usually due to holiday chart freezes. Whatever song was No. 1 when they closed for the holidays stayed there until they resumed chart publication, sometimes as much as four weeks later.

      For Billboard, they measured real plays and ranked by audience, so sometimes a song that was bigger in larger markets did better on that chart.

  3. Brooks wears his Dan Fogelberg influence on his sleeve with this song. He is arguably at his most listenable and inviting when he channels this relaxed singer-songwriter vibe. Brooks isn’t afraid of parabolic stories because he gets at their emotional and metaphoric truths. Trying to “get” the song by mapping out the song chronologically – or geographically in the case of “Beaches of Cheyenne” – is to miss the point of the story all together. “That Ol’ Wind” is a song about destiny and faith, the significance of a fated relationship. Focusing on only the facts is to lose the meaning; it’s like…trying to rope the wind!

  4. I love Garth’s story songs such as this, and personally, I really miss hearing beautiful, heartwarming songs like these during the Fall and Winter months. It’s part of what made country radio during those colder months extra special, imho. Sadly, this seems to be one of Garth’s most forgotten 90’s singles, but it shouldn’t be. Personally, it’s one of my favorites he released in the decade.

    When I got the Fresh Horses album around late 2001/early 2002, hearing this song again instantly brought back great memories of hearing it regularly on the radio during the late 1996/early 1997 period. Unfortunately, “That Ol’ Wind” had pretty much been dropped from our stations once its chart run was over, and I hadn’t heard it again until getting the album. Hearing it again was like seeing an old friend I hadn’t seen or heard from in too long. I still remembered the opening verses as if I’d only heard the song yesterday. It made me remember how at night in bed when the song was going through my head, I’d somehow hear it as him saying “And then the DJ’s voice comes on. Says he’s back in town tonight for one last SONG” instead of “show.” Of course, since I got the album during the Fall/Winter months, that also made it easier for me to be transported back to the colder months of late 1996 and early 1997.

    As for the song itself, it’s simply gorgeous from the gentle sound of the wind that opens the song, the beautiful melody, Garth’s relaxed, yet heartfelt and emotional performance, and the pretty piano, steel guitar, and fiddle solos that close the song. This is yet another example of a Garth record using Bruce Bouton’s steel playing to great effect, especially. And as Kevin mentions, Garth simply nails the right emotions in the right parts of the song. His relaxed, natural delivery is perfect when telling the story in the verses, and I love how intense and dramatic his vocals get when the story takes a big positive turn as he sings “That ol’ wind had once again found it’s way home.” And as he concludes the story with its sweet ending you can “hear” him smiling as he gently sings: “For right now they’re both in love. The only thing they’re thinking of is that they’re finally where they’re hearts have always been.” His performance has always made me get invested in the story, and it never gets old no matter how many times I hear it. Plus, it’s always heartwarming to know the boy will finally have his father in his life.

    Hearing the version of the song linked here, I’m pretty positive it’s a recently remastered version that likely came from one of the box sets he released in the last decade. I can tell because the new versions have noticeably a lot less reverb or echo than the original 90’s masters. I personally still prefer the original 90’s versions because I just like the reverb. The echo heard in the fiddle and steel guitar parts in the 90’s master of “That Ol’ Wind” especially sounded great to me because it made them sound more like they were flowing along with the wind, imo.

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