Even Garth Brooks isn’t immune to the beauty and emotion of “The Dance.” It’s the song he referred to as the “greatest success as a song we will ever do.” It was also the song that almost wasn’t. Luckily for Brooks and his fans, it made it to the airwaves. When Brooks made an appearance on the Bobby Bones Radio Show, he got to hear the first-ever recording of the hit. “The Dance” brought tears to his eyes.
Tony Arata wrote “The Dance” in the late 1980s, inspired by Kathleen Turner’s character in Peggy Sue Got Married. In an interview with The Tennessean, he explained the inspiration behind the ballad. “[The film] just hit me so hard,” Arata said in 2013. “It hit me that you don’t get to pick and choose your memories in life. You have to go with things as they play out. You don’t get to alter them.”
It’s a simple song but that’s what makes it work. As Don Tolle (Arata’s music publisher) explained it, “There are very few lyrics in that song. And yet every word in there needs to be there, and there’s not a single thing missing. But there’s a lot of space– it breathes.” Tolle also said that the writing of the song was slow and tedious. Until one day, Arata just had his song.
The Song That Almost Wasn’t
When Arata and Tolle pitched the song to the record labels, there weren’t any takers. It was an unconventional country song, and no one really knew what to do with it. But as luck would have it, Brooks heard Arata perform the song at the famous Bluebird Cafe. He later contacted him for permission to record it. But it wasn’t until music producers saw the audience impact of “The Dance” at Brooks’ live show that they agreed to release it as a single. Of course, the rest is history.
Garth Brooks Relives History
For a song to make it all the way to radio, there are several steps in the process. One of them is “day writes,” as they’re known in the business. As Garth Brooks explained on the Bobby Bones Show, it’s basically just a recording of the song the day you write it. Back in the day, that was hitting the record button on your boombox. The version Bobby Bones played for Brooks was Arata’s day write of “The Dance.”
As Brooks listened to the first ever recorded version of his hit song, tears were evident in his eyes. The song is so gorgeous and one can only imagine the flood of memories that rushed back to Brooks in that moment. You can watch his emotional reaction in the video below.