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Songs You Forgot You Loved: Deana Carter’s Steamy Summer Anthem ‘Strawberry Wine’

In August of 1996, newcomer Deana Carter released the lead single from her debut album Did I Shave My Legs For This? The song, an ode to teenage romance and lost innocence, would change the trajectory of Carter’s career and go on to become one of the biggest hits of the ’90s. “Strawberry Wine” earned Carter her first No. 1. But more importantly, it signified a change in direction for country radio and continues to resonate with country fans of all ages 22 years later.

Green on the Vine

“I was caught somewhere between a woman and a child/ one restless summer we found love growing wild/ on the banks of the river on a well-beaten path/ it’s funny how those memories they last/ like strawberry wine”

The groundbreaking coming-of-age anthem was written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison, who had each already scored hits separately and as co-writers. (Berg and Harrison co-wrote Martina McBride’s “Wild Angels” and Trisha Yearwood’s “Wrong Side of Memphis.”) But even their previous success probably didn’t prepare them for the impact “Strawberry Wine” would have.

The dreamy waltz provided instant nostalgia for anyone who remembered “when 30 was old” and piqued the curiosity of anyone too young to have lived out the love story themselves. And the ballad being released in late summer certainly didn’t hurt. The tale of trysts under “the hot July moon” and summer memories with fall quickly approaching provided a perfect setting for a radio smash.

By the end of November, the song had reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, replacing Patty Loveless’ “Lonely Too Long.”

Love Growing Wild

The song didn’t only describe the elation of first love, but it also addressed the reality of what happens when that love fades. (“A few cards and letters and one long distance call, we drifted away like the leaves in the fall.”)

And like any great country song, it gets down to specifics. You can feel the wistfulness of looking over overgrown fields and thinking back on lost love. It’s a five minute saga that everyone could relate to — or wanted to.

Berg has said the song was inspired by her upbringing on a farm in Wisconsin, where her grandfather worked as dairy farmer.

Songs about young love were nothing knew. But there were few country songs that told the familiar tale from the female perspective. There hadn’t been a country hit that put female desire at the forefront since Pam Tillis’ take on the swooning “Maybe it Was Memphis,” written by Michael Anderson.

The music video for “Strawberry Wine,” which featured glimpses of a young couple and showed Carter standing in the entry way to a seemingly-abandoned house, only added to the song’s allure.

Read More: Rooted in Country: Jenny Gill on Deana Carter’s ‘Strawberry Wine’

The song won numerous accolades, including Song of the Year at the 1997 Country Music Association Awards. It was an especially impressive feat in a year that included Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On,” Alan Jackson’s “I’ll Try” and George Strait’s “Carried Away.”

It was also voted Song of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Song. The song was also nominated for Best Country song at the 1997 Academy of Country Music awards.

Carter and Matraca Berg would team up once again — this time as writers. The two penned “You and Tequila,” which was originally recorded for Carter’s 2003 album I’m Just a Girl and became a Top 5 hit for Kenny Chesney in 2011. Berg also recorded the song for her 2011 album The Dreaming Fields.

At a time when women’s stories are sorely missing from country radio, “Strawberry Wine” is a reminder of their power.

‘Strawberry Wine’ Lyrics:

He was working through college on my grandpa’s farm
I was thirsting for knowledge and he had a car
I was caught somewhere between a woman and a child
When one restless summer we found love growing wild
On the banks of the river on a well beaten path
It’s funny how those memories they last
Like strawberry wine, seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love oh bittersweet
Green on the vine
Like strawberry wine
I still remember when thirty was old
And my biggest fear was September when he had to go
A few cards and letters and one long distance call
We drifted away like the leaves in the fall
But year after year I come back to this place
Just to remember the taste
Of strawberry wine, seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love oh bittersweet
Green on the vine
Like strawberry wine
The fields have grown over now
Years since they’ve seen the plow
There’s nothing time hasn’t touched
Is it really him or the loss of my innocence
I’ve been missing so much
Like strawberry wine, seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love, oh bittersweet
Green on the vine
Like strawberry wine
Strawberry wine
Strawberry wine

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Songs You Forgot You Loved: Deana Carter’s Steamy Summer Anthem ‘Strawberry Wine’