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Country Flashback: The Rich Storytelling in Clay Walker’s ‘This Woman and This Man’

Clay Walker is highly regarded for a reason. The Beaumont, Texas native exploded onto the country music scene with “What’s It to You,” his first single and first No. 1 hit. He followed that success up with “Live Until I Die” ( which charted in late 1993 into 1994), “Dreaming with My Eyes Open” (1994), “If I Could Make a Living” (1994), “This Woman and This Man” (1995), “Rumor Has It” (1997) — all number one hits. While most of these early hits are cheerier numbers, “This Woman and This Man” was the broader public’s first look at Walker as a serious singer.

Sophomore Slugger

Walker released his sophomore album, If I Could Make a Living, in 1994. The title track (co-written by Alan Jackson, Keith Stegall, and Roger Murrah) is a cheeky romancer about the things the narrator would do if he could make a living from it. Up to this point, Walker’s hit singles were in this vein: light and breezy. With “This Woman and This Man,” Walker proved that he was more than a hat and good looks. Thanks to If I Could Make a Living, album, Walker was able to tour as a headlining act.

‘This Woman and This Man’ is Just Good Songwriting

“This Woman and This Man” is, to put it simply, a devastating song. The singer confronts his partner, clearly frustrated that he’s not able to communicate his feelings clearly. The only way he can do so is by telling a story of a hypothetical woman and man who drift apart. However, he can’t quite bring himself to admit that he and his partner or the woman and man in the song’s title. It’s a brilliant conceit: not only is the narrator of the song a developed character, but the song’s story within a story — “this woman” and “this man” — universalizes this couple’s troubles for the rest of us. It’s that interplay between a very specific situation and one that many people can relate to that is the hallmark of great songwriting.

In this case, the credit goes to Jeff Pennig and Michael Lunn. The public responded, too. It was released in December 1994 as the second single from Walker’s sophomore album If I Could Make a Living. The song debuted at 53 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks and became Walker’s fifth Number One hit on the week of March 19, 1995. It was the first multiweek number one hit for the Giant label.

The music video, directed by Bill Young, shows Walker and another young women morosely sitting through a business meeting. (Who among us hasn’t.) The video signals a shift from the framing story into Walker’s daydreams of himself as a leading man in various classic Hollywood movies in which the lovers reconcile. The end of the video gives the modern-day happy ending, though the song itself is ambiguous.

Changing the Course

Walker’s subsequent hits take on more complex emotions, probably because of the success of “This Woman and This Man.” The first single from Hypnotize the Moon (1995), “Who Needs You Baby,” is a declaration of love disguised as a breakup song. “Only on Days That End in Y,” also from that album, is a sarcastic song about moving on…and the reality behind that sentiment. It’s a big shift from Walker’s sunnier singles from the beginning of his career. Some of Walker’s other greatest hits include “Ordinary People,” “You’re Beginning to Get to Me,” “The Chain of Love,” “I Can’t Sleep,” “Jesus Was a Country Boy, and “She Won’t Be Lonely Long.” Walker’s songs have matured with him: 2007’s “Fall” is a beautiful song about supporting loved ones. His most recent single, April’s “Working On Me,” may be about the heady feeling of falling in love, but it captures the mystery and drama of that experience rather than the simple happiness we might have heard Walker sing about in his youth. Clay Walker’s career shows that the best country music is complex and thought-provoking — and that there’s still more to come from him.

‘This Woman and This Man’ Lyrics:

Been tryin’ so hard just to talk to you
Haven’t heard half of what you want me to
I’ve hurt so bad over where we’ve been
Don’t know how not to go back there again

I know what I wanna say
Can I get it through to you now
In some other way? Like

There was this woman
And there was this man
There was this moment they had a chance
To hold on to what they had

How could they be so in love
And still never see
Now nothin’ could be sadder than
This woman this woman and this man

A stranger’s eyes in a lover’s face
See no signs of a better time and place
Have we lost the key to an open door?
I feel the need to reach out to you even more

It’s a circle we’re goin’ ’round
If we don’t get us out from under
It’s gonna take us down, see

There was this woman
And there was this man
There was this moment they had a chance
To hold on to what they had

How could they be so in love
And still never see
Now nothin’ could be sadder than
This woman this woman and this man

For all we’ve got to lose
There’s so much to gain
If we come this far and leave it behind
There’s only you and me to blame

See there was this woman
And there was this man
There was this moment they had a chance
To hold on to what they had

How could they be so in love
And still never see
Yeah, we can get it back again
This woman this woman and this man
Yeah, we can get it back again
This woman this woman and this man

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Country Flashback: The Rich Storytelling in Clay Walker’s ‘This Woman and This Man’