“When I Said I Do”

“When I Said I Do”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Clint Black
“When I Said I Do”

Written by Clint Black
Recorded by Clint Black with Lisa Hartman Black

I was working on an album that was kind of a “trick” album. The record company wanted me to do an unplugged record but by then everyone had done one and I didn’t have the heart for it anymore. I’d gotten the advance, so I had to give them what they wanted. I thought about how I could make it interesting for me. I decided I would make it not sound unplugged. I wanted it to sound electric and contemporary. The album, the first I ever produced, was titled D’Lectrified.

I enlisted the help of the artists who had influenced my music to be involved in the recording somehow: Steve Wariner, Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart, Eric Idle, Edgar Winter, Kenny Loggins, Marshall Tucker Band, Leon Russell, Toy Caldwell, Bruce Hornsby, Matt Rollings, Hayden Nicholas (I hope I didn’t forget anyone). And they were all a part of it. About midway through recording, I realized that the biggest influence on my life wasn’t on it — my wife Lisa. I had to write a song for her. It was time to do something for us.

While Lisa was cooking, I was hanging out in the kitchen with my guitar and started writing the melody. I thought, “If we were singing in front of people and God, what would we say?” We communicate well privately but how could we express ourselves to everyone else? I started with a 3/4 feel like a wedding waltz. I had a note pad on the island in the kitchen and wrote the first half of the song. Often, she’ll sing or hum along with me while I’m writing. I started teaching Lisa the chorus and had her sing it with me. The next day, I got back to work in the kitchen (I wrote the whole song in that kitchen.). By then, Lisa was locked into the harmony part.

When I wrote the bridge, I sang both parts; I hadn’t told her that I wrote it for both of us to sing. After it was finished I told her she was recording it with me and she immediately said, “No.” I told her that I recorded it in the key that would work for both of us. She went back and forth and kept telling me to “get a real singer.” She hadn’t sung in 15 years or so, and she was nervous that she didn’t have the chops any more, even though I told her she was wrong. Then I resorted to guilt. I started being my lawyer, “On (such and such a date) you said you would record this song with me.” She still didn’t agree to do it.

Days before the album was due, I told her it would just be me on the record; if she didn’t sing it with me, no one would sing that part. I asked her how she would feel if she heard it later and she wasn’t on it when I wrote it for and about us. She finally agreed — FOUR days before I had to turn it in!

We recorded it and delivered it on time. The record company loved the song. I didn’t tell them whose voice it was and they guessed “Martina McBride” and almost everyone but Lisa. It was the first single and they shipped it to radio without them knowing who it was.

Then I had to convince Lisa to do the music video with me. She had pretty much retired from acting when we got married, so she said no for a while and then finally did it. I directed it. It was set in a bowl, it had an amphitheater feel. She was beautiful. That’s when everyone found out it was her singing with me.

We went through the same thing with The Tonight Show, going back and forth until she agreed to go on with me, and again for the beginning of my tour at (what is now) the Smirnoff Amphitheater in Dallas. I said, “Honey, you have to come do this with me.” She said, “I’m not doing this on stage!” She did and I was thrilled. She was anxious, frightened. The song starts and, while I’m singing the first chorus, she walks around the back of the stage, and enters down a flight of stairs on the stage. 20,000 people cheered when they saw her. She felt welcome and calmed down. She realized they wanted her there and didn’t resent her and whatever trepidation she had went away. She sang with me and we had the best time. From then on I couldn’t get her off the stage. Seriously, it was great. She sang with me on a 75 city tour.

The record went to #1, then down to #2 and back to #1. That never happened to me before or since. It got a Grammy nomination and an Academy of Country Music Award for Vocal Event of the Year in 1999. I told her I didn’t think we’d win. When they called our names, it meant something very special.

The song got a rebirth when another couple, Chanté Moore and Kenny Lattimore, did an old style R&B version of it that I loved. This is a special song for me because I’ve gotten so many nice letters about it. So many people tell me they played it at their weddings.

“When I Said I Do”

These times are troubled and these times are good

And they’re always gonna be, they rise and they fall

We take ’em all the way that we should

Together you and me forsaking them all

Deep in the night and by the light of day.

It always looks the same, true love always does

And here by your side, or a million miles away

Nothin’s ever gonna change the way that I feel,

The way it is, is the way that it was.

When I said I do, I meant that I will ’til the end of all time

Be faithful and true, devoted to you

That’s what I had in mind when I said I do.

Well this old world keeps changin’, and the world stays the same

For all who came before, and it goes hand and hand.

Only you and I can undo all that we became

That makes us so much more, than a woman and a man.

And after everything that comes and goes around

Has only passed us by, here alone in our dreams

I know there’s a lonely heart in every lost and found

But forever you and I will be the ones

Who found out what forever means.

When I said I do, I meant that I will ’til the end of all time

Be faithful and true, devoted to you

That’s what I had in mind when I said I do.

Truer than true, you know that I’ll always be there for you.

That’s what I had in mind, that’s what I had in mind

When I said I do.

Lyrics and Music by Clint Black. © 1999 Blackened Music

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