How The Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge” Co-Writer and a Marital Spat Led to Vince Gill’s First No. 1, “I Still Believe in You”

Before songwriter and musician John Barlow Jarvis started collaborating with Vince Gill and writing songs for Stevie Nicks, Cher, Taj Mahal, Conway Twitty, and more, he was a pianist in Rod Stewart’s band in 1974 and also played on albums by Elvis Presley, Ringo Starr, Art Garfunkel, Harry Nilsson, and John Cougar Mellencamp, among others. Throughout his career, Jarvis also played with Jimmy Buffett, Glen Campbell, Bob Seger, Reba McEntire, Rodney Crowell, Garth Brooks, and more.

By the 1980s and early ’90s, Jarvis had already written songs for Waylon Jennings (“Between Fathers and Sons”), The Highwaymen (“Born and Raised in Black and White”), the 1984 Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton holiday duet “The Greatest Gift of All,” and more, along with The Judds‘ 1990 hit “Love Can Build a Bridge” with Naomi Judd and Paul Overstreet.

When the two eventually connected in the early ’90s, they co-wrote what became Gill’s first No. 1 on the Country chart, “I Still Believe in You.”

Videos by American Songwriter

A “Make-Up Song”

“Vince and I talked about writing backstage at one of the CMA shows,” said Jarvis of their initial connection. “We finally booked an appointment on a Sunday at my house. He forgot to tell his wife, and they had a bit of a spat about it, apparently, so he was in the mood to write a make-up song.” At the time, Gill was married to his first wife, Janis Oliver of the country duo Sweethearts of the Rodeo.

“I pretty much had the music idea fleshed out before he got there,” added Jarvis. “I would say he wrote 90 percent of the lyrics while I wrote about 90 percent of the music.”

Once Gill got a hold of the song, it became the title track of his fifth album and transformed from a mid-tempo track to a moving ballad. “It wasn’t a ballad at first,” said Jarvis. “It was a midtempo almost Fleetwood Mac kind of thing. Vince and his producer Tony Brown wisely slowed it down. It made a big difference.”

[RELATED: Reba McEntire Always Regretted Never Telling Kenny Rogers That Vince Gill Was Chosen Over Him For Her 1993 Duet “The Heart Won’t Lie”]

“I’ll Make It Up to You”

Throughout the song, which Gill also co-wrote, he is asking for forgiveness and the chance to make it up: Somewhere along the way, I guess I just lost track / Only thinkin’ of myself never lookin’ back / For all the times I’ve hurt you, I apologize.

Everybody wants a little piece of my time
But still, I put you at the end of the line
How it breaks my heart to cause you this pain
To see the tears you cry fallin’ like rain

Give me the chance to prove
And I’ll make it up to you

I still believe in you
With a love that will always be
Standing so strong and true
Baby, I still believe in you and me

Somewhere along the way, I guess I just lost track
Only thinkin’ of myself never lookin’ back
For all the times I’ve hurt you, I apologize
I’m sorry it took so long to finally realize

Give me the chance to prove
That nothing’s worth losing you

Oliver and Gill divorced in 1998, and the lyrics of “I Still Believe in You” were always painful and “confusing” for her to hear.

“Some songs that come on the radio still break my heart,” Oliver told The Tennessean. “I can pretend like they don’t tug at my heart or make me wistful, but there are some songs I can’t listen to anymore, like ‘I Still Believe in You,’ because of the circumstances around them and what he told me they meant to him. To hear that now is confusing.”

No. 1

I Still Believe in You became the most successful album of Gill’s career, selling more than five million copies in the U.S., alone. The album also went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Albums chart and peaked at No. 10 on the 200.

Along with topping the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, “I Still Believe in You” also won the Grammy Award for Country Song of the Year in 1993, a second win in the category for Jarvis, who picked up the same award in 1992 for “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

Jarvis has also continued touring in Gill’s band since 2016.

Photo: Scott Gries/Getty Images

Behind the Album: ‘Turnstiles,’ Billy Joel’s Artistic Leap in His Return Home

Bruce Springsteen Admits He Wanted To Be British After Visited the UK

Bruce Springsteen Admits He “Yearned To Be British” as a Teen, Gloats About His “Pretty Good Fake British Accent”