Garth Brooks’ Hit Song ‘The Dance’: Story Behind the Country Classic

by Jennifer Shea
garth-brooks-hit-song-the-dance-story-behind-the-country-classic

Many people interpreted the classic Garth Brooks song “The Dance” to be about love gone awry. But Brooks says the song had a more expansive meaning than that.

Brooks finds meaning in tragedy

As Wide Open Country points out, the country singer has revealed that to him, the song was always about finding the meaning in a major tragedy.

“To a lot of people, I guess ‘The Dance’ is a love gone bad song,” Brooks said. “Which, you know, that it is. But to me it’s always been a song about life. Or maybe the loss of those people that have given the ultimate sacrifice for a dream that they believed in, like the John F. Kennedys or the Martin Luther Kings. John Waynes or the Keith Whitleys. And if they could come back, I think they would say to us what the lyrics of The Dance’ say.”

Brooks released “The Dance” on his self-titled debut album in 1989. Songwriter Tony Arata wrote the song.

According to Country Fancast, the Kathleen Turner film “Peggy Sue Got Married” inspired the song. 

Memories in life

Moreover, Arata told the Tennessean in 2013 that the song had to do with memories.

“It just hit me so hard,” Arata said. “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.”  

“The Dance” picked up the Song of the Year and Music Video of the Year awards at the 1991 Academy of Country Music Awards. It won Music Video of the Year at the 1991 Country Music Association Awards.

Included in the music video are the late bull rider Lane Frost, who died in 1989 after a bull hit him, and the late President John F. Kennedy. And Keith Whitley, a country singer who drank himself to death. Also Martin Luther King Jr. And the crew of the space shuttle Challenger.

The music video is so powerful partly because it draws on images of people who gave up everything for their dreams, Brooks said.

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