On This Day: Garth Brooks Releases ‘The Dance’ in 1990

by Jim Casey

Garth Brooks released “The Dance” on April 30, 1990, the fourth and final single from his 1989 self-titled debut album.

Garth Brooks came busting out of the chute in 1989 with his Top 10 debut single, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).” He followed up with his first No. 1 hit, “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” After his third single, “Not Counting You,” peaked at No. 2, the G-man dropped “The Dance” on April 30, 1990.

Bluebird Magic

Three years earlier in 1987, Garth Brooks was just an unknown singer/songwriter paying his bills by selling boots in Nashville. Unknown songwriter Tony Arata was loading trucks at UPS. But Garth and Tony serendipitously crossed paths on a magical night at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe. The cozy listening room, a place for songwriters to showcase their tunes, was only five years old at the time.

“I finally got to do an early show at the Bluebird after working my way up the ranks doing the open mics and all that stuff,” said Tony Arata to Country Weekly magazine in 2007. “I did one with Liz Hengber, Mark Irwin, and a fellow from Oklahoma named Garth Brooks. I’d met him earlier and my first impression was, ‘This guy can sing.’ He already had a presence on stage, and he was trying to make it as a songwriter as well. So we were friends . . . both in the battle together.”

“It was at the Bluebird in ’87 when Garth heard my song, ‘The Dance,’ for the first time. There weren’t many people there, and I remember he came up after the show and said, ‘Has anybody done that song?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘If I ever get a record deal, I’m gonna do it.’ About a year later, I got a call saying Capitol Records had signed Garth at the Bluebird following a showcase . . . and he wanted a copy of the song. So he lived up to his promise.”

Garth Brooks ‘Dances’ to the Top

After Garth released “The Dance” in April, the tune topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for three weeks in July 1990. Garth had secured his second No. 1 single.

Considered by many to be one of Garth’s signature hits—along with his follow-up release, “Friends in Low Places”—”The Dance” won both Song and Video of the Year at the 1991 ACM Awards. Garth’s tune also copped Video of the Year at the 1990 CMA Awards.

Over the years, Garth has performed the touching tune, with its multiple interpretations of love and loss, during some seminal moments. At the 2001 NASCAR Awards, Garth performed the song as a tribute to Dale Earnhardt, who had died earlier that year. Garth also performed the song during the final episode of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno in 2014.