Behind the Song Lyrics: “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” Garth Brooks

“I had a demo studio and he got a hold of me, wanting to sing demos,” legendary Nashville songwriter Kent Blazy told American Songwriter. “At the time, of all my demo people —Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie—none of them could get a record deal, but they were all fantastic. So, I was always looking for singers to come.”

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It was the late ‘80s and when this one particular singer who had gotten a hold of Blazy arrived at the studio, Blazy was a little taken aback. Donning a big black duster jacket and a cowboy hat, this young, aspiring artist didn’t yet have the friendly veneer he’d eventually become known for. In fact, at that time, he was nothing more than just another dreamer who had already been turned away by dozens of other songwriters in town. But on that fateful morning, the stars aligned.

“He played me a cassette of six of his songs and I just loved his voice,” Blazy explained. “And I loved his whole demeanor about how he was and who he was. So, I thought ‘Why not?’”

With Blazy on-board for a co-write, the young artist brought up an idea he’d been kicking around for a while—he had the concept and some chords put together but didn’t have any lyrics yet. He explained the idea to Blazy, and according to the legend, within 15 seconds, the first verse dove right out of Blazy’s mind and perfectly stuck the landing on the page of his writing notebook.

By the end of the session, Blazy and the young artist—who we know today as multi-platinum country megastar Garth Brooks—had written their first song together: “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” Released in 1989, it went on to be the first No. 1 hit for both men.

“That was the very first thing we wrote together, so after that, I thought ‘Hmm, this might be pretty good!’” Blazy joked, looking back on the whirlwind of success he and Brooks experienced after the single took off. Recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Blazy’s been feeling particularly sentimental these days… which goes for Brooks too.

“If I only sang the parts of this song I wrote, it would sound like this,” Brooks said on stage at the NaSHOF induction ceremony, before playing the chords to “If Tomorrow Never Comes” without singing a single word, illustrating the brilliance of Blazy’s lyrical contributions.

Years earlier, Brooks relayed his side of the story in the liner notes for his CD release The Hits. “I ran the idea for this song by what seemed like a thousand writers and no one really seemed to understand what I was looking for,” he wrote. “On the day that Bob Doyle, my co-manager, introduced me to Kent Blazy, I passed this idea by Kent and he had the first verse down within fifteen seconds. I could tell he just felt it.”

Yet, for as serendipitous as its composition was, the success and resulting legacy of “If Tomorrow Never Comes” can be traced back to one simple thing: how powerful the lyrics are. Starting off with the protagonist laying in bed at night thinking about his own mortality, the song blossoms into a beautiful message of appreciation for loved ones. Just read the lines for the chorus and you can see how impactful of an appeal it is:

If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her?

Did I try in every way to show her every day
That she’s my only one?
And if my time on earth were through
And she must face this world without me,
Is the love I gave her in the past
Gonna be enough to last
If tomorrow never comes?

Whether it’s referring to a lover, a friend, a family member, or just anyone you love, there’s a universal message in the meaning of the lyrics, which makes the tune a mighty powerful tool for folks from all walks of life. Even now, over 30 years later, it’s still a country music standard and go-to karaoke track—a testament to its timelessness.

But for Blazy, thinking back on that fateful morning all those years ago still gives him a kick. Just the very, very beginning of Brooks’ meteoric rise, it’s almost difficult to remember that the fella wearing that big black duster and cowboy hat would be the same man to fly around stadiums on a wire, singing into a headset microphone.

“He’s so different now than he was then—I still picture that duster and cowboy hat in my mind, but these days, it’s just hard to remember that that’s really what he was dressed like back then!” Blazy said with a laugh. “Now, he’s found the flow of who he is, so he doesn’t have to dress up as much. It was very intimidating back then, now, he wears more of a friendly outfit.”

Listen to Garth Brooks’ first No. 1 single, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” below:

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