"In This Life," the title track of Collin Raye's 1992 studio album, encapsulates why its singer had a near-perfect voice for emotionally-stirring country songs.
An Ideal Wedding Song
There's something about softer voices, be it the familiar pipes of Raye, Vince Gill or a number of other country singers, that lends more believability to slow, heartfelt love songs. Sure, others wrote this one, but it's easy to suspend belief and think that Raye felt all this emotion before. The music video feeds this perception, showing Raye with just a piano player, singing the song to an empty concert hall. It gives off the impression that he dwells on these sorts of things when he's got some alone time.
When songs really strum listeners' heartstrings, they become associated with times and places in peoples' lives. While Gill's "Go Rest High on that Mountain" suits funerals, the more hopeful theme and tone of "In This Life" fits weddings.
Producers Garth Fundis and John Hobbs helped craft a new song to build off the chart success of Raye's prior number one hit, the post-funeral emotional breakdown "Love, Me." It worked, with "In This Life" becoming the second Raye single to top the country music charts.
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The song was co-written by Mike Reid, a former Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman from the 1970s turned country hit-writer and solo performer. It became one of 12 number one singles he co-wrote, with others including Alabama's "Forever's As Far As I'll Go" and Ronnie Milsap's "Stanger in My House." His collaborator Allen Shamblin helped Reid co-write another memorable song in Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Since then, Shamblin remained a successful songwriter, co-creating Miranda Lambert's Grammy-winning "The House That Built Me."
Its Sustained Appeal
Raye's smooth delivery and the songwriters' universal message spawned a wide range of cover versions, including recordings by Michael Ball, Bette Midler, Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (for his N Dis Life album) and Irish boy band star Ronan Keating.
Currently, Raye is one of dozens of '90s hit-makers, remembered and respected yet slightly underrated when it comes time to put together nostalgic playlists. Unless you're planning the music for a wedding, that is. When the boot-scooting ends and it's time to reflect on life, consider giving this sometimes forgotten classic a spin.
This story originally ran on May 16, 2018.
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