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George Strait's latest hit was sparked by a real-life tragedy. "About seven years ago I was going through an unexpected and unwanted divorce," says co-writer Monte Warden. "My wife of 10 years left me and our two sons for another man. I was having a hard time righting my life that had been turned upside down."
Monte, who also wrote "I Wish I Was Wrong" for Travis Tritt, found some unexpected inspiration while visiting a fellow songwriter. "I was spending a lot of time at Bruce Robison's house, who's my best friend and one of the best songwriters alive," continues Monte, noting that Bruce wrote "Angry All the Time" for Tim McGraw and "Travelin' Soldier" for the Dixie Chicks. "And he's one of the best people I know, along with his wonderful wife, singer Kelly Willis. We'd drink coffee, play guitar, cry some.
"One of the hardest little things I had to do was make coffee for one person after having made it for two for so many years. I told Bruce, 'I know there's no going back, but I desperately miss my old life.' Bruce said, 'Now, desperately - that's good."
Monte and Bruce both picked up guitars. "He had a little Don Williams groove going, and I had a groove that was more Everly Brothers," says Monte. "Then I started talking about how I was feeling. Bruce, with all the sweetness in his heart, declared, 'If you're gonna be this miserable, the least we can do is make this stuff rhyme.' We started writing and two hours later we were done. We wrote 'Desperately' in one pot of coffee." Thank goodness Bruce knew how to make coffee for more than one!
Bruce put the song on his 1998 album Wrapped. Then he and Monte pitched it to a lot of other singers, but nothing ever came to pass.
Fast forward to about a year and a half ago. "I'm happily remarried with a wonderful wife," recalls Monte. "My wife, Brandi, had started Moonkiss Music in April 2002. That October, Brandi and I were out with Bruce and Kelly celebrating Kelly's birthday. Brandi said, 'I have a silly question. How many times has "Desperately" been pitched to George Strait?' And Bruce said, 'I've got a sillier answer - zero.' We couldn't believe it, because it was so obvious 'Desperately' was a Strait record."
Brandi sent the song to George's producer, Tony Brown, the next day and it was put on hold - meaning George's producer was very interested and didn't want anyone other than George to record the song. And a few days later George cut it for his Honkytonkville album.
In February, Monte and his sons, Van and Sam, watched George Strait perform "Desperately" in front of a crowd of 60,000 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. And 11- year-old Sam proudly announced to everyone within earshot, "My daddy wrote that song!"