October 2

Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” Hit Home with Dads Worldwide

To a father who has developed a strong emotional attachment with his daughter, entrusting her to another man would really be a tough decision. Emotional and separation anxieties alike would inevitably strike. The uncertainty that his daughter will be loved and taken care of more than he did would only aggravate the father’s tension. There’s the issue on trust in other words. He can’t help it, he loved his daughter first and that much since birth. Now, it’s time she’ll be with another man for the rest of her life. This idea was what brought the song “I Loved Her First” into existence in 2006. The song became the American country music group Heartland’s debut No. 1 single. That made them the first country band with a debut single to top the country music chart.

The narrator in this mid-tempo ballad is a father who’s talking to the man who his daughter is about to marry. He’s telling him that he “loved her first” that’s why it’s not that easy for him to let her go.

I loved her first
I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers
From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
And I prayed that she’d find you someday
But it’s still hard to give her away
I loved her first

A Few Facts of the Song

Songwriters Walt Aldridge and Elliot Park owned the credits for writing “I Loved Her First.” Moreover, the highly acclaimed recording went to Heartland. The song is the first single and title track from their debut studio album of the same name. It was released in June 2006 and climbed to No. 1 on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart toward the end of that year.


The song earned a positive review from Deborah Evans Prince of Billboard magazine. She specifically noted on the song as:

“beautifully written tearjerker that will hit home with dads everywhere who can’t believe their little girls have grown up so soon.”

The music video features a wedding reception where a newly-married couple is dancing with the band performing at the side stage. Toward the end of the song is a father-daughter dance wherein the father looks quite emotional. In between are few images of them together during the daughter’s childhood. Todd Schaffer directed the music video which opened in mid-2006.

In February 2015, “I Loved Her First” made a surprise comeback almost nine years after it debuted on the country chart. Thanks to a viral video of a father singing the ballad at his daughter’s wedding. This has propelled the song’s revival on the chart’s Top 10. Subsequently, it reached over one million sold copies. Watch the heartwarming video below.

Did you enjoy this piece?

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Elliot Park, heartland, I Loved Her First, Walt Aldridge

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