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Country Classics Revisited: Rosanne Cash's Crossover Breakthrough 'Seven Year Ache'

Rosanne Cash's 1981 single "Seven Year Ache," the title track off her third studio album, slingshotted her to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Its new wave dance night vibe--a predecessor to Kacey Musgraves' disco meets Western soundtrack formula for "High Horse"--also made Cash a crossover star when it cracked the pop charts' top 30. Nowadays, it's an enjoyable reminder of the early Columbia Records years for an artist who'd later abandon pop-country influences for more introspective sounds.

Cash, the eldest daughter of Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian, was born in Memphis, Tn. on May 24, 1955. After debuting in the '70s as a duet partner and songwriter for her dad, she eventually plotted a solo career with then-husband Rodney Crowell as her producer. Highlights from her self-titled 1978 debut album and 1980's Right or Wrong included a duet with Bobby Bare and covers of her dad and George Jones' songs. She openly embraced her deep country music roots, failing to net the chart success she'd enjoy in '81 -- or with a later cover of Johnny's "Tennessee Flat Top Box."

Cash didn't completely shun her raising on Seven Year Ache. There's a version of Merle Haggard and Red Simpson co-write "You Don't Have Very Far to Go," but it's overshadowed by covers of the rock and pop-friendly Steve Forbert ("What Kinda Girl?") and Tom Petty ("Hometown Blues"). This added emphasis on different genres introduced Cash to the fans of Linda Ronstadt and others making mainstream-acceptable country-rock.

Despite its pop-friendly sound, the title track's lyrics about hiding from marital problems at the local watering hole suit classic Nashville storytelling. By stepping a little further away from a traditionalist approach, Cash positioned herself to eventually share her true talents as a songwriter and interpreter with 1987's King's Record Shop and subsequent roots-guided releases.

It's the first of three number one country singles off the album. The others, in order, were "My Baby Thinks He's a Train" and "Blue Moon With Heartache." Each belong in the collection of Americana and singer-songwriter fans, whether their taste were shaped by Johnny Cash or Elvis Costello.

"Seven Year Ache" Lyrics

You act like you were just born tonight
Face down in a memory but feeling all right
So who does your past belong to today?
Baby, you don't say nothing when you're feeling this way

The girls in the bars thinking, "who is this guy?"
But they don't think nothing when they're telling you lies
You look so careless when they're shooting that bull
Don't you know heartaches are heroes when their pockets are full

Tell me you're trying to cure a seven-year ache
See what else your old heart can take
The boys say, "when is he gonna give us some room"
The girls say, "God I hope he comes back soon"

Everybody's talking but you don't hear a thing
You're still uptown on your downhill swing
Boulevard's empty, why don't you come around?
Baby, what is so great about sleeping downtown?

Splitting your dice to be someone you're not
You say you're looking for something you might've forgot
Don't bother calling to say you're leaving alone
'Cause there's a fool on every corner when you're trying to get home

Just tell 'em you're trying to cure a seven-year ache
See what else your old heart can take
The boys say, "when is he gonna give us some room"
The girls say, "God I hope he comes back soon"

Tell me you're trying to cure a seven-year ache
See what else your old heart can take
The boys say, "when is he gonna give us some room"
The girls say, "God I hope he comes back soon" 

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Country Classics Revisited: Rosanne Cash's Crossover Breakthrough 'Seven Year Ache'