CMT REWIND: George Strait Officially Becomes “King of Country” When “Give It Away” Hits #1

CMT REWIND: George Strait Officially Becomes “King of Country” When “Give It Away” Hits #1

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“For the 41st time in 25 years, George Strait has sung his way to the top of Billboard’s country singles chart — this time with the dolorous ballad, ’Give It Away,’” noted CMT.com in 2006 about George Strait officially eclipsing Conway Twitty and achieving the pinnacle of chart-topping success for which he was already nicknamed as “The King of Country Music.” The career longevity required to earn 41 number-one singles is unquestionable. However, the ability to sing songs in a way that allows them to feel timeless and connective — regardless of generation — is what makes “Give It Away” not just unique as Strait’s record-setter but as a Strait classic in and of itself.

Upon its release, Billboard Magazine’s Deborah Evans Price noted that the ballad was “a leavin’ song that would’ve worked in any decade.” The Jamey Johnson co-written song is a divorce anthem par excellence. “I’ve got a furnished house, a diamond ring/And a lonely broken heart full of love/And I can’t even give it away,” Strait sings. For any artist, that’s a gut-punch of a line to sing. However, in a touch of self-awareness, Strait’s also the same man who sang “The King of Broken Hearts” fifteen years earlier in 1991. In this vein, a man who is already “sad and wise” and “can smile while he’s crying inside” who has so damaged his ex-wife’s heart that she doesn’t even want half of their belongings in divorce actually makes sense in that context.

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A note here about artists choosing songwriters who work, with precision, within an artist’s creative brand is essential, too. Just as “King of Broken Hearts” writer Jim Lauderdale had been writing lonely-hearted yarns-as-songs for a generation, Jamey Johnson wrote “Give It Away” after divorcing his wife and making a choice to be a house-bound hermit for a year after that. In many ways, it’s arguable that diving into this pain defined a career for Johnson that includes top songs like the earnest yet heart-wrenching tale of aging, “In Color.” Strait realizing that, on some level, his career was best defined as being seen as fulfilling a “lonesome cowboy” archetype — and heavily leaning into that with the aid of craftsmen like Johnson and Lauderdale — yielded unparalleled acclaim.

In July 2021, Strait asked, via Twitter, just how many of his fans thought “Give It Away” was his best song. “Everything by George Strait is the best/my favorite man oh man 🤷🏻‍♀️ how do you pick a favorite 🤔 they all are so amazing. Thank you so much, George Strait, for being who you are & making such wonderful music ♥️,” noted one of his fans in response. However, in representing and maintaining a lineage from another lonely-hearted country king, George Jones, “Give It Away” could make an excellent case for Strait’s best-ever hit.

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Ultimately, “Give It Away” won both the Single and Song of the Year Awards at the 2007 ACM Awards and was named the Song of the Year at the 2007 CMA Awards. Plus, the song was nominated for Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards. Three other hits have followed for Strait after his 2006 hit. A decade after hitting the top with “Give It Away,” Strait’s work on a song appropriately titled “Forever Country” — a mashup performed by a one-time gathering of 30 country music artists called “Artists of Then, Now & Forever” — yielded his last chart-topping hit to date. Alongside “Give It Away,” the dual achievements do an excellent job cementing both his appeal and acclaim.



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