The Story Behind The Song: “The Dance”

(written by Tony Arata)

Garth Brooks (#1, 1990)

The way “The Dance” was written and recorded was almost like a movie script, which was ironic because the song’s composer got the idea for it after watching one of the popular films of the day.

Novice songwriter Tony Arata was attending college in Statesboro, Georgia in 1983 and playing in a band in his spare time. After graduation, he continued to perform in the local clubs. Tony heard that Jim Glaser was looking for material for his next album.

Glaser’s record company, Noble Vision Records, was located in Atlanta, and Arata worked up a cassette demo of his song “The Man In The Mirror,” and took it over there. After Jim recorded the tune (and scored a mild hit in the process, reaching #17), Tony and his wife decided to move up to Music City for good in 1986.

One night the couple drove over to the Bluebird Café in the Nashville suburb of Green Hills, a well-known “listening room” in the city where many music executives often hang out to watch non-established songwriters perform their new material, hoping to catch an extraordinary song or performer. Arata was blown away by the talent he heard, thinking that there was no way he could write songs as good as those guys. He was ready to move back to Georgia, but his wife talked him into staying in Nashville.

Several weeks later, Tony’s wife was out of town on a business trip and he decided to take in a movie. The picture he selected was “Peggy Sue Got Married,” starring Nicholas Cage and Kathleen Turner. In the film, Peggy Sue gets divorced when she’s in her forties, and then has a chance to go back to high school and change her decisions. When Nicholas Cage asks her to dance, she starts to say no, then she looks down at the locket with the pictures of her kids in it. She realizes if she says no and doesn’t marry him, the kids’ pictures will fade.

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