For Lee Ann Womack, who hit the country music scene in the late-Nineties with traditional-leaning tracks like “Never Again, Again,” “The Fool” and “A Little Past Little Rock,” the new millennium was a game-changer. Following her 1998 sophomore LP, Some Things I Know, she returned with an inspirational single that would become not only her first Number One country single, but a massive pop crossover hit throughout the world. Topping the chart on this date (July 8th) in 2000, “I Hope You Dance” was a beautifully rendered reminder to embrace each one of life’s experiences with childlike wonder and optimism. Although written (by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers) and recorded in a pre-9/11 world, it would certainly become even more poignant after the horrific events of that particular day.
Hailed by Billboard magazine as a “life-affirming” career record at the time, the country hit, which logged five weeks at Number One, featured backing vocals by Womack’s labelmates, Sons of the Desert. When the track was sent to pop radio, however, the Sons voices were nowhere to be found. Womack would soon join a few of her country contemporaries, including Faith Hill, Martina McBride and Lonestar, in receiving significant pop-radio airplay, and the song’s atmospheric music video, featuring Womack’s two young daughters, proved extremely popular as well.
On October 10th, 2002, the Lifetime network filmed the third annual Women Rock!: Girls and Guitars TV special, with Womack joining a group of performers that included the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, Chaka Khan, Michelle Branch and Gloria Estefan. Paired with Estefan for an “I Hope You Dance” duet, Womack noted in her introduction that the tune had “sort of become the unofficial song for families dealing with breast cancer.” The two singers, born 1,000 miles apart (Womack in Texas, Estefan in Cuba) bridged more than geographical distance and a difference in musical genres that night, their performance demonstrating the song’s universal appeal and earning a standing ovation.
That universal appeal helped make “I Hope You Dance” not only a smash at pop, country and adult contemporary radio in the U.S., but also a chart hit in Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands and New Zealand. Among the artists who’ve covered the song since its release are Gladys Night, Lauren Alaina (during her American Idol tenure), Dutch singer Glennis Grace and Irish superstar Ronan Keating, whose version went to Number Two in the U.K.