It was the perfect storm. 25 years ago today (June 6, 1997), Con Air arrived in movie theaters. The Nicolas Cage box-office blockbuster was the quintessential 1990s action flick. And the supporting cast was next level: John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Danny Trejo, and more.
But I’m not here to talk about Con Air. Not really. It’s just the catalyst for a strange country music footnote. About a week before Con Air hit theaters, both LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood released recorded versions of “How Do I Live.”
How did we get there? Great question. Let’s put the bunny back in the box.
Just the Facts – Sorta
Songwriter Diane Warren penned “How Do I Live” for consideration for the 1997 blockbuster, Con Air, starring Nicolas Cage. Of course, Cage was in the midst of his action-packed trinity of flicks: The Rock (1996), Con Air (1997), and Face/Off (1997).
Quick note: Diane Warren is a songwriting legend. She has a Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and two Golden Globe Awards to her name, among others. She’s also responsible for “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon.
Anyway, Warren penned “How Do I Live” with LeAnn in mind. Warren got LeAnn to record the demo—and Warren got the song in the hands of Con Air producers at Touchstone Pictures. Keep in mind, LeAnn was only 14 years old at the time, and the song was pretty spicy. For one reason or another, the producers felt LeAnn’s version wasn’t right for the film. Some have cited LeAnn’s age, some have cited her pop-tinged interpretation of the song. Nonetheless, the producers brought the song to powerhouse country vocalist Trisha Yearwood, 32, who recorded the version heard in Con Air, which was released on June 6, 1997.
According to Trisha (and we have no reason to doubt her), she had no idea LeAnn had previously recorded the song for Con Air.
Before the flick hit theaters, LeAnn (Curb Records) and Trisha (MCA Nashville) released competing versions of the song on the same day, May 27, 1997.
Radio stations fanned the flames of “controversy” by encouraging listeners to call in and “vote” for their favorite version of the song. In addition, both of the videos were pitted against each other on television.
LeAnn’s version of “How Do I Live” reached No. 2 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, while peaking at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Rimes’ version spent a then-record 69 weeks on the Hot 100 chart.
LeAnn’s recording has been certified by the RIAA as 3X Platinum for sales of 3 million units in the U.S.
In addition, LeAnn’s version was nominated for Best Female Country Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards in 1998 (but so was Trisha’s version, so keep reading).
Trisha’s version of “How Do I Live” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, while peaking at No. 23 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Trisha’s recording of the song was named Best Female Country Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards in 1998. It also helped her snag the Female Vocalist of the Year trophy at the 1997 CMA Awards.
However, the RIAA has NOT given Trisha’s version a Gold designation yet for sales of 500,000 units in the U.S.