Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: The Chicks, “You Were Mine”

“You Were Mine”

The Chicks

Written by Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

March 13 – March 20, 1999

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

March 5 – March 12, 1999

The Chicks earn their third consecutive No. 1 single.

The Road to No. 1

The momentum of the Chicks was relentless by this point in 1999, with their Wide Open Spaces album winning the Best Country Album Grammy and its sales nearing five million.  “You Were Mine” followed “There’s Your Trouble” and the title track to the No. 1 slot on both charts.

The No. 1

Founding Chicks members Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer penned this moving ballad about divorce. It was inspired by their parents splitting up.

That perspective gives added potency to the bridge: “I can give you two good reasons to show you love’s not blind.  She’s two and he’s four and you know they adore you. So how can I tell them you’ve changed your mind?”

That’s some Tammy Wynette “Lonely Christmas Call”-level guilt tripping right there, and it’s fascinating to contrast it with their most recent work, which explored divorce from the perspective of the parents.

Like so much of Wide Open Spaces, “You Were Mine” has been eclipsed many times by the Chicks themselves, so it sounds a little rudimentary these days.  Judged on its own merits, however, it’s still a compelling ballad that was the first of their hits to hint at the emotional depths they’d reach in the years ahead.

The Road From No. 1

The Chicks finished out Wide Open Spaces at country radio with the Joy Lynn White cover “Tonight the Heartache’s On Me,” which went top ten.  They then previewed their second Maines-led studio album, Fly, with the top five single “Ready to Run.” We’ll see the Chicks several times in the 2000s, starting with the second single from that album.

“You Were Mine” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Sara Evans, “No Place That Far”

6 Comments

  1. I have never considered their early work as rudimentary. It is certainly different than their later material, but that artistic progression is less about maturation and evolution than it is changed perspectives. Maybe I am splitting hairs, but I want to establish I beleive they started at a pretty elevated place. They didn’t mature the same way a band like Sawyer Brown did.

    This is more than just a compelling ballad. It’s a showstopping production with soaring harmonies, both wonderfully serving emotionally devastating lyrics.

    I consider this essential Chicks listening.

  2. Among all the many other things that distinguish them, The Chicks were very much showing a Texas-inspired independent streak, their music based equally in contemporary country, bluegrass, and rock. Given that, and the fact that these were women who played their own instruments, something that was never really conceived of in Nashville before and which caused some in that town to be a tad bit unhinged, one has to wonder if, in retrospect, all of this wasn’t a precursor of what was to come four years later.

  3. This is still one of my top favorite Chicks songs of all time, and it’s definitely my favorite single from the Wide Open Spaces album.

    This was the first time we heard what they could do with a ballad, and it was especially a great showcase for Natalie, imo. I can hear the emotion in her vocals in every word she sings, which only adds to the impact of the devastating lyrics. To me, it sounds like she’s fighting back tears throughout the entire song. When she sings “Sometimes I wake up crying at night, and sometimes I scream out your name,” I certainly believe it, despite the lyrics being written by Martie and Emily. And when the song was still new, I always thought she sounded a bit like Patty Loveless throughout, especially around the end of each chorus.

    For me, this is one of my most favorite songs about the divorce between two parents. That it comes from the mother’s perspective always had a big impact on me, and as someone who’s always felt terrible for the kids when their parents split up, the song’s bridge still hits me like a ton of bricks and is known to make me tear up. I also just like how it perfectly nails the shock, disbelief, and devastation of the narrator in that she just can’t believe her partner would walk away so easily for another woman when they had been together for so long and have a family. “What right does she have to take you away, when for so long you were mine?” truly says it all, and that line still gets me every now and then, along with “Please tell me she’s not real and that you’re really coming home to stay.” It’s just a truly heartbreaking song, about a truly heartbreaking situation that still makes me well up in tears every now and then. It’s just that good!

    Sonically, it is absolutely flawless, as well. I’ve especially always loved the pretty melody played by Martie’s lonesome sounding fiddle in the intro and ending. Sisters Emily and Martie also provide lovely harmonies on each chorus, while Lloyd Maines does some effective steel playing. Even the bass on this cut has always sounded great to me, giving it a warm feel, and you could always hear it louder and clearer whenever it was playing on the radio. While I respect, understand, and appreciate the Chicks for branching out and exploring different sounds on their more recent music, I do stubbornly miss the more neo-traditional sounding music they made during this era, with this cut being a fine example.

    This song just sounded absolutely perfect on the radio during the Winter of early 1999, with the sad and lonesome feel of the song perfectly matching the cold weather we were getting at the time, along with the bare trees and cloudy skies. Again, I consider myself to be truly lucky to have lived in a time when you could still hear great songs like this on the radio that perfectly matched the current season, which is something that seems to be given a lot less consideration when it comes to labels choosing singles these days. This was also was just one of many of the emotional Fall/Winter singles from female artists I was enjoying at the time, others including “Stand Beside Me” by Jo Dee Messina, “No Place That Far” by Sara Evans, “Everytime I Cry” by Terri Clark, “Wrong Again” by Martina McBride, and “Let Me Let Go” by Faith Hill.

    This is also another song that I’d hear very often after school during my seventh grade year when my dad and I would have dinner together. The first few times hearing it in the car with him, I’d always think the song was called “Sometimes,” since that was the word most repeated in the chorus. After a while, I really came to appreciate the emotion in Natalie’s performance, and while I was pretty happy back then, the devastating lyrics still had an impact on me. The line “Sometimes I scream out your name” stood out to me, especially, and made me realize just how bad the song’s narrator was hurting. I also loved hearing the opening fiddle each time. “You Were Mine” is another song that would occasionally be stuck in my head during school, as well. It may seem strange to some that I loved sad songs so much as a 7th grader then, but hey, I’m also someone who was always the happiest whenever the weather was cold and/or cloudy, so…..

    “You Were Mine” is another song that immediately makes me recall the times when my parents and I went to Springfield Mall in Springfield, VA in early 1999, and I would be in the Time Out arcade on the second floor watching other people play the sword fighting game, Soulcalibur, and occasionally I’d play, as well. One of the characters I was fascinated with at the time was Nightmare, who was basically the evil, scary version of Siegfried, who was possessed by the evil sword, Soul Edge.

    “You Were Mine” also reminds me of the weekend trips to York and Lancaster Pennsylvania that my parents and I took around early 1999, and even into the spring of that year. Besides staying at the Hampton Inn at Greenfield in Lancaster, we also started staying at the Hampton Inn on Mt Zion Rd in York very often. The latter hotel in York is the one that “You Were Mine” reminds me of the most, which is a pretty neat coincidence since I recently found out that Martie was actually born in York, PA. :) (That hotel also holds a special memory for the next Chicks song coming up when we get to the 2000’s) I also remember “You Were Mine” going through my head while walking around the York Galleria Mall, as well as walking around the Rockvale Outlets in Lancaster on a cold and cloudy day. Even on our most recent trips to PA, I’d always feel like I’m back in those times as if nothing’s changed whenever “You Were Mine” would come on my ipod. :)

    Since some of my memories of “You Were Mine” involve staying in hotels, it just seems fitting that the video for the song happens to take place in a hotel, as well. I always loved seeing it on GAC in 1999, and it brings back great memories watching it today. While it doesn’t have much to do with the song itself, I just love all the shots of each of the sisters alone in their room doing something different, while Natalie is taking a lonely stroll outside in the cold. All three women look great in in, too, and I especially love Natalie’s black coat. Even the video being shot in black and white really adds to the feel of the song.

    “You Were Mine” was still getting tons of airplay for us in the Spring of 1999, and it reminds me of when my step dad and I were enjoying the computer golf game, Links LS ’99, which he brought home earlier that winter. It was also around that time we would always see the preview for the movie Life (starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence), which would always make my step dad and I laugh a lot whenever we were at the movies. Of course, we ended up seeing it when it finally came out that April. From that point on (even in more recent years), whenever we were in Cracker Barrel, both my dad and step dad would always love saying that famous quote from that big intimidating dude: “You gonna eat your corn bread?” LOL!

    By the mid 2000’s, “You Were Mine” was unfortunately another excellent late 90’s song that was no longer getting played much at all, especially since you know what happened in ’03. When my dad had Sirius put in his car for a brief time around 2004-2005, this was one of the songs I’d always find so refreshing to hear compared to the other songs (mostly well known ditties) that they tended to overplay. Of course, since it was a late 90’s ballad, it wasn’t played anywhere near as much as I’d wanted. I also found myself wishing that mainstream country was still about beautiful, melodic sad songs such as those, instead of the obnoxious, immature stuff that was slowly taking over.

    Needless to say, when I got the Wide Open Spaces album a while later, this is one of the songs I loved repeating. :)

  4. It took me a little while to get into The Chicks. My sister loved them from the start, but I didn’t love anything that I was hearing from then until this song.

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