STORY BEHIND THE SONG: "BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD"
One of this year's biggest hits needed to endure a broken road of its own before Rascal Flatts anointed it and took it to No. 1. The path of "Bless the Broken Road" began getting paved 11 years ago with some late-night philosophizing by songwriter Bobby E. Boyd. While sharing drinks at a Nashville bar, Bobby told a table full of friends that he'd endured hard times and made so many mistakes, especially with women. But now he was in love and happier than ever. So, he asked, could all the wrong turns have been part of God's plan? Among Bobby's drinking buddies was Marcus Hummon, who's penned hits for Tim McGraw, Sara Evans, the Dixie Chicks and others. "What Bobby said that night was really poignant," recalls Marcus, who went home and wrote the lines, This much I know is true/That God blessed the broken road/ That led me straight to you.
Not long afterward, Marcus played that chorus for Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jeff had just married songwriter Matraca Berg, and he identified with the message. "Matraca and I had both been married before, and the song really fit how we felt," explains Jeff. "That's the beauty of the song, really. Most people can identify with having to go through bad stuff before getting to the good."
That day, the two friends finished "Bless the Broken Road." Marcus mentioned that he got the idea from Bobby's conversation and asked if they could give him credit. "Absolutely," said Jeff.
"The next time I saw Marcus, he told me I was a co-writer on a song I'd never heard," laughs Bobby, who's also co-written hits for Alabama and Aaron Tippin. Then the song's path got bumpy. The Dirt Band recorded it first on their 1994 album, Acoustic, and Marcus featured it on his 1995 debut, All in Good Time. Singer Melodie Crittenden released it as a single in 1998, and it went to No. 42 on the Billboard country charts. Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler and Kim Carnes were among those who said they wanted to cut the song, but never did.
The songwriters figured the tune had run its course until they heard Rascal Flatts planned to cut it, and then make it a single. That took the song to its recent multiweek run at the top of the charts.
"For an old guy, it's quite a thrill," notes Jeff, who's written hits for his band and had cuts by other singers, but this is his first No. 1 by another artist. "What Bobby said that night was that there's a way to look back with grace at the events in your life, even the hard ones," declares Marcus. "That's such a universal message."