Remember When ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ Launched a Line Dance Craze?
Billy Ray Cyrus rocketed to instant superstardom with the release of his debut single, "Achy Breaky Heart," in 1992. The song reached No. 1 on May 30, 1992, and helped touch off the line dance craze that swept country music in the '90s.
Cyrus was an unknown country singer when he released the ultra-catchy song as the lead single from his debut album, Some Gave All, but that wouldn't be true for long. Released on March 23, the song catapulted to the top spot on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in just over two months, where it remained for five weeks. The song's insistent beat and simple two-chord structure lent themselves to line dancing, which featured heavily in the video for the song and exploded into a craze that swept country dance halls all across the U.S. and the world.
Written by Don Von Tress, "Achy Breaky Heart" was passed on by the Oak Ridge Boys before the Marcy Brothers cut it under the title "Don't Tell My Heart" in 1991. Cyrus' recording became a multi-genre hit in the U.S. and also hit various charts all over the world, propelling Some Gave All to sell more than 9 million copies. The song was polarizing despite its immense chart success; some critics derided its lyrics and structure, and Travis Tritt touched off a public feud with Cyrus when he criticized "Achy Breaky Heart" as "frivolous," saying it turned country music into "an ass-wiggling contest," a remark for which he later apologized.
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Cyrus has gone on to a long career, but "Achy Breaky Heart" remains his signature song 25 years later. He recorded a rap version of the song in 2014 with rapper Buck 22, and in 2017 he released a Muscle Shoals-style version of the song to celebrate its 25th anniversary, as well as a multi-lingual version.
Despite the criticisms that have been aimed at the song over the years, Cyrus feels "Achy Breaky Heart" serves an important purpose.
"When the song was released in the spring of ’92 the world, believe it or not, felt much like it does right now," he says. "There were wars and rumors of wars. Famine and darkness was revealing itself much around the globe. People were divided. And politically it felt as crazy across America as it does now. Basically, it felt like a good time for a happy song. Something simple that everyone could sing and yes, even dance to. Take your mind off all the heavy stuff for 3 minutes and 27 seconds!"
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