Reba McEntire Put so Much Heart Into 1 Song It ‘Tore Her up’ to Sing It

Reba McEntire had difficulty recording and performing one powerful song because it was so personal and close to home. She dedicated the special track and its entire album to loved ones following an unimaginable loss. And it received so much emotional investment from the iconic country star that it tore her up to sing it.

Reba McEntire sings a song on stage
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Reba McEntire | Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Gateway Celebrity Fight Night Foundation

Reba McEntire dedicated more than a song to her band

In 1991, McEntire experienced a devastating tragedy when a plane carrying most of her band crashed in San Diego. All 10 people on the aircraft were killed.

The country star was in a hotel room nearby with her ex Narvel Blackstock, and they soon received an unconfirmed witness report of the accident. Soon after, the crash was located, and their worst fears were confirmed. In her autobiography, Reba: My Story, she wrote that reporters swarmed the hotel lobby the following morning, and she was escorted out the back to avoid the invasion.

Moving on from the loss wasn’t easy for more than the obvious reasons. Eventually, McEntire was tasked with finding other people to replace her lost friends. She wanted to keep making music and wanted it to reflect her feelings of hurt and healing. To add to the pressure of it all, it felt like the world was watching her grieve.

The result was For My Broken Heart, an album dedicated to the members of McEntire’s band and crew who died in the accident. She wrote in her autobiography that the record meant the most to her out of all the ones she had recorded, but there was one specific song she had a hard time getting through because of the emotion of it all.

Reba McEntire could hardly sing the song ‘If I Had Only Known’ to record it

Before McEntire recorded the song “If I Had Only Known,” she knew it would be hard for her to get through. She scheduled it last and went in after the musicians recorded their parts and left the building. “If I did happen to lose it when I sang the song, at least I wouldn’t have an audience,” she noted.

The lyrics include, “If I had only known it was our last walk in the rain / I’d keep you out for hours in the storm / I would hold your hand like a lifeline to my heart / Underneath the thunder we’d be warm / If I had only known it was our last walk in the rain / If I had only known I’d never hear your voice again.”

McEntire said she ran through the song once, recorded it, and then told her producer, “That’s it. That’s all I can do.”

“There was so much of my heart in that song, it tore me up to sing it,” she wrote. “Listening to it later, I realized that the song isn’t in perfect meter, but that didn’t seem to matter.”

Reba McEntire had a hard time with the song ‘If I Had Only Known’ during a performance

McEntire wrote her autobiography in the years after the accident and shared she’d only performed “If I Had Only Known” a few times. For a while, she wasn’t even sure if she could sing it publicly at all. Then, she sang it as an encore at one show and said people left the venue “very sedate and quiet.”

After that, McEntire performed the song for special events — like at charity benefits and on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Though it was sometimes hard to perform, the process of making the song and its album was cathartic. She pointed out that music can be healing, like a good friend waiting with open arms in the lowest times.

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