HomeEntertainmentMusicCountry Throwback: Brad Paisley Pays Tribute to Stepfather in ‘He Didn’t Have to Be’ in 1999

Country Throwback: Brad Paisley Pays Tribute to Stepfather in ‘He Didn’t Have to Be’ in 1999

by Katie Maloney
(Photo by Kevin Kane/Getty Images)

Brad Paisley brought his fans to tears back in 1999 with a song about the love and commitment of a stepfather.

Twenty-one years ago, Paisley released his second single, “He Didn’t Have to Be.” The song skyrocketed to the number one spot on the Hot Country Songs chart and put Paisley on the country music map. But what makes the song so special is its connection to the life of Paisley’s best friend and co-writer, Kelley Lovelace.

Lovelace and Paisley wrote the song about Lovelace’s own experience as a stepfather. While brainstorming for the song Paisley said, “Let’s make a song about you two that will make your wife cry.”

“He Didn’t Have To Be” is a tribute to all stepfathers who step-up and love a child unconditionally. The man in the song sings about being blessed with an amazing stepfather as a kid. Now that he’s grown and married, and awaiting the birth of his first child, he hopes that he can be “at least half the dad that he didn’t have to be.”

Brad Paisley’s “He Didn’t Have To Be.”

Brad Paisley ‘Wouldn’t be Sitting Here’ Without This Song

Although Paisley is a household name in the country music world today, that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until the release of this song that Paisley started gaining the attention of listeners. During an interview, Paisley said that he wouldn’t be a famous musician it wasn’t for “He Didn’t Have To Be.”

“[The song] was probably the most life-changing three minutes that I’ve ever written, because I really believe we wouldn’t be sitting here anymore talking,” Paisley said. “It broke the ice for me with radio. It was like you could see potential in it, and that’s an important thing. I was really lucky, it wasn’t like we knew what we were doing. I just happened [to write] that with my best friend from the bottom of my heart about his situation,” says Paisley.

From the bottom of Paisley’s heart to the hearts of countless listeners, “He Didn’t Have To,” is still an anthem for all stepfathers who deserve some loving recognition.