Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Trisha Yearwood, “How Do I Live”

“How Do I Live”

Trisha Yearwood

Written by Diane Warren

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 15, 1997

Trisha Yearwood reaches her commercial peak.

The Road to No. 1

After “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” became her sixth No. 1 hit, the title track from Everybody Knows went top five, followed by the top forty hit “I Need You.”  Yearwood then changed producers, enlisting Tony Brown to co-produce some of the new material on her first hits collection, {Songbook}.  Thanks to the lead single from this collection, Yearwood reached new commercial heights and swept the industry awards in the eighteen months that followed.

The No. 1

LeAnn Rimes was originally enlisted to record “How Do I Live” at the request of its songwriter, Diane Warren, who was asked to write the song for the film Con Air. Upon hearing Rimes’ recording, the producers felt a more mature performance was needed to capture the feelings of the older characters in the film.  Yearwood learned the song by listening to Rimes’ version, and was surprised to learn that Rimes’ label would also be releasing “How Do I Live” to country radio.

While some radio stations spliced the Yearwood and Rimes versions together, and Rimes’ version cracked the top fifty of the country singles chart, country radio embraced Yearwood’s version, powering it to No. 1 on the genre chart, while Rimes’ take became a massive pop hit.

Diane Warren’s ballads aren’t exactly known for their subtlety, and “How Do I Live” was written for an over the top Nicolas Cage movie.   So it’s to Yearwood’s credit that she is able to ground “How Do I Live” in realistic emotion, giving a tender and thoughtful reading to the lyrics and supplying a subtlety that is completely absent from the lyric itself.

Yearwood sings with more power than usual, but it’s never overpowering.  This time period gave us a brief window into what Yearwood’s career could’ve been like if she’d emphasized radio friendly material all along the way.  Unsurprisingly, she does it better than anyone else, even if it still feels like she’s fighting well below her weight class here.

The Road From No. 1

“How Do I Live” kicks off a string of four consecutive No. 1 singles, and we’ll cover them all in the coming weeks. It also won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

“How Do I Live” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Lonestar, “Come Cryin’ to Me” |

Next: Kenny Chesney, “She’s Got it All”

11 Comments

  1. Nowhere near my favorite Trisha song, but the 1997 CMA performance seriously shook my 10 year old self. Still shakes up my 35 year ass come to think of it.

    2
    • Her live vocal from the CMAs is even better than the final studio recording. I remember the audience burst into applause mid-way through the performance– at the sax solo, if memory serves– and it was entirely justified.

      1
        • Man, I love that CMA performance! A well deserved standing o, indeed. Seeing Trisha collect her first well earned Female Vocalist trophy in the same show is also just everything. :)

          I just love the 1997 CMA Award show, overall, and it’s full of great performances! I also really miss the country award shows being classy like they were back then. Even the very beginning with all the stars stepping out of limos all decked out is so cool! :D

      • I think they burst into applause at the start of the solo and again after it. Then a standing ovation for the performance and another immediately after for her FVOY win. One of the greatest CMA moments of all time for me.

        1
        • She then got a THIRD standing ovation in the press room. There was a sense she was overdue at that point, and she was, but it was also the nineties. From 1992-1997, CMA and ACM Female Vocalist Awards went to Reba McEntire (ACM ’92, ’95), Mary Chapin Carpenter (CMA ’92, ’93, ACM ’93), Wynonna (ACM ’94), Pam Tillis (CMA ’94), Alison Krauss (CMA ’95), and Patty Loveless (ACM ’96, ’97, CMA ’96.) Some genuinely huge female acts never won at all, like Lorrie Morgan, LeAnn Rimes, and Shania Twain. What an era for women that was.

          1
  2. One cannot fault Trisha for recording “How Do I Live?”, especially since it is the highest-charting hit she has had, at least so far, on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #23. It’s kind of a typical 1990’s movie theme song (Diane Warren wrote it, after all); and kind of what one would expect (and/or want) when country music takes on an Adult Contemporary shade.

    In terms of Trisha herself, however (and this is not a slam of her in any way), it is a bit atypical, as she wasn’t so on the nose before (or after) when it came to crossing over. The influence of her spiritual role model Linda Ronstadt and her arguably “subversive” classic country-rock albums of the 1970’s is usually her modus operandi.

    Still, considering she should have had far more such crossover hits because of her musical background, Trisha did more than a little all right with this song (IMHO).

  3. We’ve already seen songs featured here which define much of the Summer of 1997 for many, including myself, like “Carrying Your Love With Me” and “It’s Your Love,” but for me personally, Trisha’s version of “How Do I Live” is THE song of that summer. It was a huge part of soundtrack to so many things my family and I did that year, and there was just no escaping it during that time. Funny enough, it was also when I started becoming an even bigger fan of Trisha than I ever had been before.

    Sure enough, the first time “How Do I Live” caught my ear was when my parents and I saw the movie Con Air in the theater when it came out in June, which is one we had anticipated seeing back then. I recognized Trisha singing right away during the scene in the beginning of the film with Poe (Nicholas Cage) in his army uniform dancing with his wife in the bar, and then of course, again near the end of the film when Poe is reunited with his wife and daughter. I have to admit, that very scene with Nic Cage and his wife and kid all hugging each other under the Vegas lights as the final climatic chorus of “How Do I Live” is playing has still been known to make my eyes watery. Looking back, the song and movie were indeed an unusual combination, but it somehow really worked, and the song definitely does its job. The film is also still a fun ride for me and one I like to watch every now and then, and it brings back great memories of when my parents and I enjoyed it in the theater, and when my step dad and I would always liked catching it on TV afterwards (One of his favorite lines: “Put the bunny back in the box.” lol) I also always thought it was pretty neat and coincidental that the wife’s name in the movie was Tricia and the actress that played her, Monica Potter, even looks a little bit like Trisha Yearwood (and Julia Roberts, except with blonde hair).

    A little while after that, my dad had taken me to see my cousins, and on that night on the way back to my house, “How Do I Live” came on the radio. It sounded familiar, and I quickly recalled where I’d heard it from, but it wasn’t exactly how I remembered it from Con Air. This time it sounded like LeAnn Rimes was singing it, and for one hot second, I thought I was going crazy or just misremembered it as Trisha singing it in the movie. I told my dad it sounds like LeAnn Rimes and it’s the song from Con Air. However, I soon realized a different voice was now singing the song, and this time it sounded like Trisha Yearwood. I told Dad, “Wait a minute, that actually sounds like Trisha Yearwood!” and then again soon after, “Wait, no that’s LeAnn Rimes!” If you haven’t guessed by now, it turned out we were listening to one of the versions where both Trisha and LeAnn’s versions were meshed together (as Kevin mentioned), and for a little while it made us both thinking we were going crazy, lol. On that same night while on the road, we were both occasionally glancing at a really neat looking moon that was nearly full, and I remember really enjoying that view whenever it wasn’t blocked by the trees. :)

    Of course soon after, I learned that Trisha Yearwood and LeAnn Rimes both had versions of “How Do I Live” out, but from that point on, it was mostly Trisha Yearwood’s version that we heard on the radio the most. A few days before we took our vacation to Maine that summer, my step dad and I were in the car, and Trisha’s version came on. I told him all about the two different versions and that we were listening to Trisha Yearwood singing it this time. He also remembered it from the movie and really seemed to be enjoying it. It was also during that moment that I began to realize I actually really liked the way Trisha sang it, and I enjoyed her more mature and emotional vocals on it.

    During the trip to Maine, while driving up through New England, it seemed to come on EVERY time we found a new country station after the other one faded. Even my mom (who also recognized it from Con Air) always enjoyed hearing it back then, especially when it was Trisha singing it, and today it’s still one of the few 90’s country songs that she still likes. While in Maine, I specifically remember hearing it around the time we tried this nice little pancake house called The Breakfast Room, which if I recall correctly, was somewhere just south of Portland around Scarborough. I remember their sign having two eggs in place of the o’s in the word “Room”. Around that same time, I also heard Michael Peterson’s “Drink, Swear, Steal & Lie” and the live version of Garth’s “Friends In Low Places” featuring that famous third verse, lol.

    On the few times I did get to get LeAnn Rimes’ version again, I definitely noticed the difference between the two versions right away, and by then, I much preferred Trisha’s take on it. That’s still where I stand on the song today. Not to take away anything from LeAnn, but I just personally find Trisha’s more mature and emotional performance more believable and genuine sounding. She really does sound like she cannot live without her partner and is literally down on her knees begging him not to ever leave her. Not to mention, it was overall such a fine showcase for what she can do vocally with a mainstream power ballad, even if those kind of songs are not necessarily her thing. I myself am usually not as much into power ballads, but I still definitely have a soft spot for this one.

    The thing is, it actually wasn’t the Songbook album version that we always heard on the radio. It was a more “country mix” version that featured a lovely Paul Franklin steel guitar solo in place of the sax solo in the original. And instead of going from the first verse right into the second like it does on the Songbook/video version, it followed the more typical “first verse, chorus, second verse, chorus” pattern. Given that it was the version likely played nationwide on most country stations, it’s very surprising that it was never made available on CD or to download or stream. After searching for a while on Youtube, I found it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHir0BVqoms I personally like this version the best, not only because it’s the one I’m used to hearing, but I also just love Paul Franklin’s steel playing which really adds to it, imho. I also love the smooth guitar in the song’s fadeout. While in middle school during the Fall of that year, I remember still hearing this version on the radio and thinking it was kind of funny that it came from an action movie featuring villains with names like Cyrus The Virus, Diamond Dog, and Swamp Thing, lol.

    Overall, “How Do I Live,” is a song that still brings back so many great memories from one of the best and most fun years of my life. And unlike some of Trisha’s other really big hits (“She’s In Love With The Boy,” “XXX’s and OOO’S”) I’ve NEVER gotten tired of hearing this one even once, even as it continued to get a lot of recurrent airplay for us in the early 00’s. I’m actually quite surprised that it only went number one on Radio and Records, since it was such a monster hit!

    Really looking forward to the next couple Trisha number ones, as well, btw!

  4. I remember feeling so proud that a stellar country vocalist was getting this kind of mainstream promotion and exposure.

    Yearwood gives what the Warren composition needs to soar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.