1997 was the year that the iconic ‘90s song “How Do I Live” was brought to life, but at the same time, it was also an awkward time between LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood, who both recorded the song.
As the story went, “How Do I Live,” which was written by Diane Warren, was intended for the final scenes in Nicolas Cage’s action film Con Air. Warren promised the song to 14-year-old Rimes, and Rimes’ record label even filmed a music video for the song. But eventually, producers and executives thought her voice wasn’t a good fit for the story’s mature plot and that it sounded less country, more pop than they wanted to. And so, they reached out to Yearwood to sing the song without her knowing about Rimes’ involvement.
The two country artists dropped their own respective versions on the same day, May 27, 1997.
Chart Performance and Success
On the week of June 14, both songs debuted on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 chart. Rimes’ version spent a record-breaking 69 weeks on the chart (only beaten by Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” 11 years later) with 25 weeks in the top five and peaked at number two. Not only that, but it also proceeded to be the chart’s number one song of the 1990s, selling over 3 million units in just a few months and also its fifth biggest hit of all time.
On the other hand, Trisha Yearwood only peaked at number 23 on the Hot 100 chart as MCA refused to produce any more copies of the single ‘for fear of cannibalizing album sales’ according to Country Fancast. Her version spent a total of 12 weeks on the Hot 100, but it achieved more success on country radio and even climbed all the way up to the number two spot on the Country Music chart, trumping Rimes. It also held its own in terms of sales, selling over two million copies.
Needless to say, both versions of the songs soared in popularity in different genres.
Battling It Out on the Grammys
While the artists themselves never duked it out, their record labels as well as radio stations, newspapers, and even the Grammys battled it out for them. Local media outlets had been conducting polls, asking listeners which version they thought was better. And on January 6, 1998, both artists received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Female Vocal Performance for “How Do I Live” – a first in the Recording Academy’s history.
LeAnn Rimes performed the song on the ceremony’s live broadcast, but she didn’t win the Grammy. And what was even more awkward was that Yearwood won the category and received the award right after Rimes’ performance.
Reflecting back, Rimes certainly didn’t feel good about what had happened. And she felt betrayed by the people in the business and disheartened to see what her fans liked and had politics take that away from her. Yearwood, who was blindsided, also felt that he would not have chosen to go up against Rimes if she only knew about the circumstance. There has always been a Nashville rule – like a gentleman’s agreement – that if someone has a song on hold, nobody else can record it.
But in the end, Yearwood saw it all as a positive, with both versions of the song achieving record-breaking success with Rimes in the pop world and Yearwood in the country genre.
Listen Now: “How Do I Live”
Despite what had happened, “How Do I Live” became a staple in their concerts. Last 2016, Yearwood performed the iconic song at a Yankee stadium while Rimes released a reimagine version in 2018.
LeAnn Rimes, trisha yearwood