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Producer Tony Brown on George Strait's Cover of John Prine Co-Write 'I Just Want to Dance With You' (Book Excerpt)

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Degrees of separation between country music hit-maker George Strait and the late, great John Prine shrank in 1998 when Strait's version of Prine co-write "I Just Want to Dance With You" reached No. 1.

Prine's co-write with British songwriting legend Roger Cook (The Hollies' "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," Coca-Cola jingle "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)") first appeared on Prine's 1986 album German Afternoons.

Stait's recording became the first single off One Step at a Time, an MCA Nashville release featuring the King of Country's renditions of songs written by Jim Lauderdale ("We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This") and Robert Earl Keen ("Maria"). The album also brought us "True," one of Strait's best '90's singles to not top Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

Author Jake Brown's 50th career book Behind the Boards: Nashville (out June 23) includes interviews with 30 of the top country producers from the past 50 years, including Dave Cobb, Shane McAnally, Clint Black, Luke Laird and Tony Brown. These discussions cover 300 No. 1 hits by the likes of Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift and Strait.

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Today, Wide Open Country shares an excerpt from Jake Brown's interview with Tony Brown, the go-to producer for Strait, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire. In it, Tony Brown describes convincing the King of Country Music to cut a co-write by the Songwriter's Songwriter--a future hit that needed Prine's permission for a minor edit.

Tony Brown Excerpt From Jake Brown's Behind the Boards: Nashville

The thing about making country records - and George is an especially good example of this -  is trying to find the direction and the energy of each individual song.  Should it be hard-charging or mellow for instance, or say in the case of a song like "I Want to Dance With You," which is a John Prine song, I would have never believed that George would cut a John Prine song.  But when I heard that one, I knew I had to play it for him.  Well, when he finished listening to it, the first thing he did was look up at me and I thought he was going to say "What were you thinking?", and that's what he did!  (laughs)  So I told him, "I think this is a hit for you man."  So he said "Okay, I like it."  In the demo, in the chorus, one line says "That's what I thought dancing was invented for" and another chorus says "That's what I thought dancing was intended for," and George asked, "Do you think John Prine would mind if I used the same line in both choruses?"  

The funny thing is, when I went up to his office to ask if it was okay to change the line, initially his manager was the only one there and said "No," but then as I was walking out, John was walking in and when I asked him directly, and he said "Hell yeah man!  Whatever he wants to sing, I want a George Strait cut!" (laughs)  That's one of my favorite records I ever cut on him, because Paul Franklin had this steel guitar part on there in the chorus that's one of the best I've ever heard. So George and I have been through moments like that, with a John Prine song or a Rodney Crowell or Jim Lauderdale song where I brought something to him, but usually I took the lead from George.

"I Just Want to Dance With You" Lyrics

I don't want to be the kind to hesitate
Be too shy, wait too late
I don't care what they say other lovers do
I just wanna dance with you

I gotta feeling that you have a heart like mine
So let it show, let it shine
If we have a chance to make one heart of two
I just wanna dance with you

I wanna dance with you, twirl you all around the floor
That's what they intended dancin' for
I just wanna dance with you
I wanna dance with you, hold you in my arms once more
That's what they invented dancin' for
I just wanna dance with you

I caught you lookin' at me when I looked at you
Yes I did, ain't that true?
You won't get embarrassed by the things I do
I just wanna dance with you

Oh the boys are playin' softly and the girls are too
So am I and so are you
If this was a movie, we'd be right on cue
I just wanna dance with you

I want to dance with you, twirl you all around the floor
That's what they intended dancin' for
I just wanna dance with you
I wanna dance with you, hold you in my arms once more
That's what they invented dancin' for,
I just wanna dance with you

I wanna dance with you
Twirl you all around the floor
That's what they invented dancin' for
I just wannna dance with you

I wanna dance with you
Hold you in my arms once more
That's what they invented dancin' for

I just wanna dance with you
I just wanna dance with you
I just wanna dance with you
I just wanna dance with you

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Producer Tony Brown on George Strait's Cover of John Prine Co-Write 'I Just Want to Dance With You' (Book Excerpt)