“From Here to Eternity”
Written by Robert Ellis Orrall and Michael Peterson
#1 (1 week)
December 13, 1997
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
December 5, 1997
A promising hat act shows up late to the party.
The Road to No. 1
Born and raised in Arizona, Michael Peterson was yet another young county star that flipped from football to music. But his path was windier than his contemporaries. A football team mate connected him with R&B and gospel singer Deniece Williams of “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” fame. He spent a good part of the eighties writing Contemporary Christian songs, and released his first of two self-titled albums in 1986 in that genre. A move to Nashville was encouraged, and after collaborating with his future producers Josh Leo and Robert Ellis Orrall, he was signed to Reprise Records. His first single, “Drink, Swear, Steal, and Lie” went top five, getting his second self-titled album off to a strong start. Then he enjoyed his first and only No. 1 single with a song inspired from a trip to a video rental store.
The No. 1
We talk a lot about artists who are before their time. Michael Peterson is one of those rare artists who came along after his time. As we’ll see in our next entry, even Garth Brooks was moving on from the sound he mainstreamed earlier in the decade.
“From Here to Eternity” is a 1997 No. 1 single that sounds exactly like a 1994 No. 1 single. It’s well constructed, and he builds a better song out of a title from a VHS tape than Kenny Chesney would a bit later from a movie line from another VHS tape.
He’s a charismatic singer too, and the buzz surrounding him at the time was justified. There was just no path forward for this sound by this point of the decade, making his biggest hit something of a nineties country footnote.
The Road From No. 1
Peterson went top ten with “Too Good to Be True,” and then the much-hyped ballad from the album, “When the Bartender Cries,” surprisingly underperformed, reaching the lower part of the top forty. A fifth single, “By the Book,” went top twenty. It was enough to make his first album earn a gold certification and for him to get a CMA Horizon Award nomination. But his second country album, Being Human, produced only one top forty hit, and he soon exited Reprise. A long string of independent albums followed, the most recent being a covers album in 2017 that revisited his handful of hits alongside some country classics.
“From Here to Eternity” gets a B.
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
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I’ve always really liked Michael Peterson’s music, and I have and enjoy his first two albums, so I’m glad at least one of his singles reached number one! He’s another one of those artists like Ty Herndon, Kevin Sharp, Deana Carter, John Berry, Mindy McCready, Lila McCann, Bryan White, Chely Wright, Paul Brandt, etc., that immediately makes me think of great times in my life from the late 90’s and early 00’s.
“From Here To Eternity” is actually one of my favorites of the 90’s wedding ballads, and I personally enjoy it more than some of the earlier, more well known ones of the decade (Ex: “I Swear”). I really love Peterson’s smooth, tender, and sincere delivery coupled with the song’s beautiful melody, and I especially love his soaring vocals during the song’s key change and climatic final chorus near the end. While I can see similarities to some of the ballads from the mid 90’s, I disagree that it sounds like it’s from 1994. To my ears, the production screams late 90’s with its more polished and contemporary sound, especially with the smooth opening guitar and the strings during the choruses. The more sleek sound of the drums is also definitely late 90’s. When “From Here To Eternity” comes on my ipod or Spotify, it still sounds pretty modern to me, whereas if a mid 90’s song in a similar style comes on, its age shows more in the production. Of course, this could also just be that I’ve always personally associated the song so closely with the late 90’s period myself.
I also really love the video for “From Here To Eternity,” and it’s my personal favorite video of his. The beautiful settings featuring a clear blue sky, especially the ones at the beach and near lighthouses were simply a perfect match for the the song. It actually reminds me of some of the spots we’ve hung around in Maine before and took pictures. :) To this day, I always picture similar scenic locations under a big blue sky and wide open spaces when I hear this song. I also always thought the concept of Michael taking his special lady for a “blindfolded” day to do all those different things together was both original and sweet. Of course, my personal favorite part, though, is near the end when he takes her all the way up by the top of the lighthouse to propose to her, which is made all the more beautiful with the gorgeous view and scenery.
Despite “From Here To Eternity” going to number one, I actually don’t recall hearing it on the radio quite as often as his debut hit, “Drink, Swear Steal & Lie,” which is definitely one that was played religiously at the time, and is still one of my personal favorites today, as well. I do remember watching and enjoying the video for “Eternity” on GAC, though, and I especially remember the part where he took her to the beach blindfolded with the waves crashing over their feet. It also does bring back memories of my parents and I going to Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA nearly every Sunday during late 1997 and early 1998.
I actually grew to love “From Here To Eternity” even more after I got his self-titled debut album in 2002, after not having heard it in quite a long time. It’s one of the songs on the CD that often got stuck in my head, and I especially remember it still going through my head one afternoon when my step dad and I were in the A&W restaurant at Springfield Mall, lol. Other songs on the album I love are “When The Bartender Cries” (still can’t believe it wasn’t a hit!), “For A Song,” “Since I Thought I Knew It All,” “I Finally Passed The Bar” (featuring Travis Tritt), and “Love’s Great” (quite the opposite of “From Here To Eternity,” lol).
I also really enjoy “Too Good To Be True,” which is another one my dad and I used to always hear on the Weekly Country Music Countdown in the car on Saturday nights in early 1998. The video is just as fun as the song, as well, and it’s another one I used to enjoy on GAC back then. The sight of that building crumbling in the end still makes me chuckle today. :)
Despite “By The Book” not making top 10, I still heard it quite often during the Fall of 1998 and into early 1999 when I was in 7th grade. It’s another one of my personal favorite singles from his debut album, and like many other late 90’s country songs, it perfectly balances both contemporary and traditional country styles. Love the sound of the punching drums on this track, as well! It’s also quite impressive how his first album was still producing hits by that time, imo.
I also recently found a copy of his second Reprise album, 1999’s Being Human, and I love it just as much as his first one. My favorites on it are “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Sunday,” “I Owe It All To You,” “Slow Dance,” “Sure Feels Real Good,” “Two of The Lucky Ones,” and “Let Me Love You One More Time.”
I actually remember hearing “Somethin’ Bout A Sunday” around the Spring of 1999 when my mom, dad, and I were on the way back to our house after we’d been to Springfield Mall. It was on an independent station we’d been listening to more often that played a much bigger variety of recurrents and new releases. My parents and I were all really enjoying Peterson’s song, and I remember thinking it sounded like Ty Herndon, at first. Before that, it played K.T. Oslin’s “Come Next Monday” and Dan Seals’ “Three Time Loser” just after we’d tuned in. That station also played Peterson’s “Sure Feels Real Good” pretty religiously around the Summer of that year, and it actually continued to do so up to the mid-late 2000’s, despite it not being a big hit!
It’s really too bad his sophomore album era wasn’t as successful as his first. I personally think his style fit the late 90’s aesthetic quite well, with his smooth and less twangy vocals, classy ballads, and fun upbeat songs that successfully combined the neo-traditional sound from earlier in the decade with the more pop influenced late 90’s sound (especially “Drink, Swear, Steal & Lie” and “Too Good To Be True”). I even love his 2002 attempt at a comeback single, “Modern Man,” which again, I thought fit the early 00’s style pretty well and should’ve been a hit.
On his most recent remakes and covers album, I do really enjoy his covers of “Lookin’ For Love,” and “Wichita Lineman,” which both suit him and his voice and style really well, imo.
Oh yeah, and I cannot let a Michael Peterson entry go by without mentioning his involvement in one of my favorite Walker Texas Ranger episodes in “Eyes Of A Ranger,” which I believe aired in the Fall of 1998. That episode also features another one of my all time favorite artists, Lila McCann, playing as one of the main characters. :)
Thank you for your thoughtful comments! It means a lot to me.
Despite having so much promise and potential at the time, Peterson is all but forgotten as ever having had either. Describing his music as a “footnote” is accurate and not even unfair.
This song sounds sweet, sincere, and comforting while also managing to sound slightly contrived and generic.
His skills as a vocalist do a lot of the heavy-lifting here. He deserved more chances to grow into his own sound and style.
Thank you for your review.
Thank you for your review
Back in 2007, I had a ten minute segment on the one hour Sunshine Opry Radio Show which aired on WLBE AM 790 in Leesburg. In one of my segments I featured Michael Petersons two biggest hits plus the title song from his 2004 album Modern Man and wondered why such a talented performer faded so quickly from country radio
A similar fate befell another talented singer Canadian Paul Brandt, who had two big US hits. Unlike Peterson, Brandt had a large following in Canada and fell back to being a Canadian country superstar for 20+ years