Remember When Clint Black Scored His First No. 1 Hit?
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It’s quite rare for an artist to hit No. 1 with a debut single, but Clint Black managed it in 1989 with “A Better Man.”
Black wrote the song with his longtime collaborator Hayden Nicholas, inspired by a breakup that he had recently gone through. It had been a long relationship, and Black was reflecting on how even though it hadn’t worked out, it had changed him for the better.
He suggested the line, “I’m leaving here a better man” to Nicholas, who had the idea for a rhythm figure. They joined the two ideas to write the song.
“Usually the musical idea would race to the finish line, and we’d have our structure completed,” Black recalled 25 years after the release. “It would take hours and hours and days, or in some cases weeks to finish out the lyrics. I always look at that as kind of a jigsaw puzzle.”
Released as the lead single from Black’s debut album, Killin’ Time, “A Better Man” shot the singer-songwriter to instant success at country radio, reaching No. 1 on Billboard‘s U.S. Country Songs chart on June 10, 1989. He followed up with three more chart-toppers from that career-making album, including the title song, “Nobody’s Home” and “Walkin’ Away,” scoring another Top 5 with “Nothing’s News.”
“A Better Man” stands as a cornerstone career single for Black, still receiving significant airplay today, and he attributes that to its unique perspective.
“A country song about leaving someone was usually going to be beating that someone over the head with that song,” Black says. “Don’t you usually get something good out of a relationship? Especially the ones that last a while. Female listeners — and that’s a huge part of the audience — I think they had to have enjoyed hearing a guy singing about a girl and a relationship that didn’t work out, where there wasn’t something terribly wrong with the girl.”
Backstage at the 2015 ACM Awards With Clint Black