Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Tim McGraw, “Where the Green Grass Grows”

“Where the Green Grass Grows”

Tim McGraw

Written by Jess Leary and Craig Wiseman

Billboard

#1 (4 weeks)

October 3 – October 24, 1998

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

September 25 – October 2, 1998

Tim McGraw completes a run of six consecutive No. 1 singles.

The Road to No. 1

McGraw’s dominance at radio with his Everywhere project included the first five singles from the album going to No. 1. Thanks to a guest appearance on wife Faith Hill’s most recent single, “Where the Green Grass Grows” made it six consecutive trips to the top for McGraw.

The No. 1

When Everywhere won the CMA Award for Album of the Year in 1998, it felt like an acknowledgment of McGraw’s exceptional taste in material.  In the late nineties, there wasn’t another male artist consistently reaching these levels of excellence while also being enthusiastically embraced by radio.

“Where the Green Grass Grows” could’ve been a career record for most country artists, and for anyone else, it would’ve at least been the lead single.  That it was the fifth release from Everywhere demonstrates the depth of quality songs on that album.

“Green Grass” treads familiar ground for a country song, with a country boy trying to make it in the city, but fully intending to head back home once there’s enough jingle in his pocket.  Far from being a tired exercise in country pride, there is a real sense of disorientation here.  He really doesn’t belong where he his right now:  “All this glitter is getting dark, there’s concrete growing in the city park. I don’t know who my neighbors are, and there’s bars on the windows and bars on my heart.”

That sense of anguish hits hard in the second verse, but it wouldn’t have done so if the first verse and chorus hadn’t already been so effective in setting the stage.   The first verse captures specific details of his mundane life in the big city: “Another supper from a sack.  A 99 cent heart attack.”  With that clever couplet, we know he’s living off the fast food dollar menu, indicating that he’s barely getting by in his struggle.  The chorus soars in stark contrast to the verses, as it is entirely focused on the happily ever after he’s determined to have: “Raise our kids where the good Lord’s blessed, point our rocking chairs toward the west, and plant our dreams where the peaceful river flows, where the green grass grows.”

Is there already a love waiting for him back in his small town, or is he planning his future back home with some city girl he’s got his eye on?  The song leaves that open to interpretation. One can only imagine how many fist bumps the song has solicited from misplaced country boys longing for where they came from, perhaps while they sit in rush hour traffic, contributing to the “red ants marching in to the night.’

An indisputable classic from a superstar at the top of his game.

The Road From No. 1

McGraw released a sixth and final single from Everywhere, “For a Little While,” which went top five.  We’ll see McGraw twice again next year, with two multi-week No. 1 singles that are also indisputable classics.

“Where the Green Grass Grows” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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1 Comment

  1. This song stands with the Danny Dill/Mel Tillis classic “Detroit City.” All the lyrical details are imminently familiar and relatable. The messaging is classic country while the production is decidedly contemporary.

    1

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