BORN Country Takes Look Back At 25 Years Of Achy Breaky Heart
When the idea for writing this article chronicling a brief history of what would be the career defining song of Billy Ray Cyrus came to mind, I had yet to know how the man himself would be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of “Achy Breaky Heart.” When Billy Ray announced that he had re-recorded the song, adapting a “swampy” flavored sound with The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, I thought that it seemed like a great book-end of sorts for the song. A link will be included below, and it sounds great!
What I never would have guessed, would be the bombshell also released by the 90’s country icon, today: From here on out, Billy Ray will now be known simply as “Cyrus.” That’s right. The Artist Formerly Known As Billy Ray, is legally changing his name to “Cyrus.” Now that’s going to take some getting used to.
Any how, let us now take a brief look back into the history of “Achy Breaky Heart.”
- In 1990, songwriter Don Von Tress pens the song, originally titled, “Don’t Tell My Heart”.
- In 1991, The Marcy Brothers, a three piece band out of Oroville, California recorded and released “Don’t Tell My Heart” on their second and final studio album.
- After years of living in a car, performing in bars and eventually opening for Reba McEntire, Billy Ray Cyrus was signed to a record deal with PolyGram/Mercury in 1990. Cyrus began to write songs for what would become his 1992 debut album, Some Gave All.
- Upon release, Some Gave All was an instant hit. The record would land #1 positions on the Billboard Top Country Albums, Billboard 200, Canadian Country Albums, Canadian Albums and several other charts around the world.
- The first single, and Billy Ray’s biggest hit to date, “Achy Breaky Heart,” was the majority factor in this immediate success. The single would hit radio in March of 1992, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart by end of May, where it would stay for a month.
- Throughout the early 90’s, “Achy Breaky Heart” play a major role in the country line-dancing craze. To this day, it is still an integral part of any dance floor DJ’s country music playlist.
- Later in 1992, “Achy Breaky Heart” would be recorded and released by none other than The Chipmunks. Oh yeah, THOSE Chipmunks. Alvin, Simon and Theodore. The single, again yes, the RADIO single, included spoken dialogue from Cyrus himself. The song was included on the group’s second album of country covers, titled Chipmunks In Low Places. The album would go on to become the animated group’s best selling record of all time, reaching #21 on the Billboard 200 Chart. If that isn’t wild enough, the record hit #6 on the Top Country Albums Chart! Other notable guests on the album include Alan Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette and Aaron Tippin. The Chipmunks cover of “Achy Breaky Heart” climbed to #71 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs.
- Shortly following the success of Billy Ray’s debut single, the song became the butt of many jokes and parodies. Saturday Night Live, In Living Color and countless other TV and radio shows would poke fun at Billy Ray with their own versions of the hit song. Titles such as “Achy Breaky Head” (seen below), “Itchy Scratchy Spot,” “Greasy Stinky Fart” amongst others made the rounds.
- A more notable parody, “Achy Breaky Song,” would be included on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 1993 album, Alapalooza. Over the course of his long and successful career, Yankovic rarely ventured into parodies of country music hits, but when one comes along that becomes such a major pop-culture phenomenon, Al simply could not let the opportunity pass by. The lyrics to “Achy Breaky Song” played on all of the things that Yankovic would rather be subjected to over Billy Ray’s hit. Not one to typically release mean spirited songs, Yankovic donated all proceeds from the track to the United Cerebral Palsy Association to balance out.
- “Achy Breaky Heart” became such a massive hit around the world, that other artists began to cover the song to be released in multiple languages. Swedish country music singer, Kikki Danielsson recorded her version of the hit song for her 1993 album, Jag ska aldrig lämna dig (Google translates to: I Will Never Leave You). Though many artists have recorded “Achy Breaky Heart” in other languages, “En allra sista chans (Achy Breaky Heart)” is just fascinating!
- Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, Cyrus would continue to chart songs on country radio. His success in the music world would lead to other opportunities in television and film. Doc had a strong run run on PAX TV between 2001 and 2004. A stint in stage show, Annie Get Your Gun also proved fruitful for Billy Ray. Most notably, Disney’s series Hannah Montana would not only keep Billy Ray in the spotlight, but would also shine on his daughter, Miley. The show constantly joked about Billy Ray’s past history in music…and hair style.
- 22 years after the release of “Achy Breaky Heart,” Billy Ray announced that a sequel to the hit song would be recorded. The nicest thing I can say about this collaboration with Buck 22 is… “Huh?” If you have never heard the song or viewed the music video, BRACE YOURSELF. This is… weird.
Warning: This music video features a number of scantly clad women performing as dancing aliens. View at your own discretion.
- Now, here we are, 25 years after Billy Ray’s initial release of his breakthrough hit. Love the song or hate it, one would find it very hard to argue that this is one of the most successful recordings in country music history.”Achy Breaky Heart” has had many detractors over the past quarter century, but the negativity seems to have only ever stoked the flames.
- “Achy Breaky Heart” has since been named #2 in VH1 and Blender’s “50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever,” but also #87 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs Of The 90’s.” While the hate is out there, the love for this 90’s country classic never dies.
- In celebration of #AchyBreakyHeart25, Billy Ray Cyrus, or “Cyrus,” as he will now be known as from here on out, headed down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to re-recored his smash hit with The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. This version is probably a bit closer to what songwriter Don Von Tress initially envisioned when he wrote the song in 1990.
I hope that you have enjoyed this brief trip down memory lane as Billy Ray Cyrus celebrates 25 years of “Achy Breaky Heart.” I had a great time in the research for this article and I appreciate any feedback in the comments below. I’d like to do similar pieces for other songs down the line, but not many 90’s country hits have quite the history that this one does.