Lee Ann Womack
Written by Marla Cannon-Goodman, Gene Ellsworth, and Charlie Stefl
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
September 26, 1997
A genre legend earns her first No. 1 hit.
The Road to No. 1
Lee Ann Womack was born and raised in Jacksonville, Texas, where she earned a deep knowledge and appreciation for country music as the daughter of a local principal who moonlighted as a country music disc jockey. After high school, she attended Belmont University in Nashville. While she didn’t complete her degree, she did intern at MCA Nashville while still a student there. She married fellow aspiring musician Jason Sellers, and after taking some brief time off to raise her daughter, future Americana star Aubrie Sellers, she returned to pursuing her music career. By 1996, she’d signed with MCA’s revived Decca imprint. Her lead single in 1997, “Never Again, Again,” went top thirty. She made it to No. 1 with the second single from her self-titled debut album.
The No. 1
“Never Again, Again” was a breath of fresh air upon its release, fully committing to a traditional country arrangement to launch a new female artist during a time when pop crossover was gaining momentum.
“The Fool” fulfilled the promise of that first single, even as it demonstrated Lee Ann Womack could do more than just a steel-and-fiddle ballad. This ballad is more piano-driven, and it helps set the stage for the song’s storyline. It’s easy to imagine someone singing alongside a piano to a song like this while the scenes play out.
Womack is “the fool in love with the fool who’s still in love with you,” making an appeal to her lover’s former flame who has left his life but not his heart.
She counts the fools correctly, in the sense that the former lover isn’t actually doing anything wrong. It’s not her fault this guy is still holding on to her memory. Him saying his old flame’s name in his sleep is a cue to leave the relationship, not barter with the woman who is not in any way responsible for him still being in love with her.
It’s that sad self-awareness in the lyric that makes the song’s desperation so palpable. He’s a fool for hanging on, and his new beau is just as much a fool for thinking this conversation is going to solve the problem.
The Road From No. 1
Womack followed “The Fool” with the top five “You’ve Got to Talk to Me” and the top thirty “Buckaroo,” which was enough to power her debut album to platinum sales and earn her new artist trophies from the American Music Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards. We’ll see Womack two more times in the nineties with singles from her sophomore release.
“The Fool” gets an A.
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