The Story of Pop: 1998 (Chapter 13)

Bringing you more hits from the year the Millennium Dome started to take shape in North Greenwich, when F1 racing driver George Russell was born, and when the final episode of Chigwell set sitcom Birds of a Feather was broadcast on BBC One, this is The Story of Pop: 1998. This week: the extraordinary story of the year’s biggest selling hit that didn’t make number one…

  • Artist: LeAnn Rimes
  • Song: How Do I Live
  • Released: 23/02/1998
  • Writers / Producers: Diane Warren / Chuck Howard / Wilbur C. Rimes / Mike Curb
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #7
  • Weeks on Chart: 36

And so we begin what is going to be quite a quiet few weeks ahead on this series today; in fact, the early spring of 1998 was very uncharacteristic to the rest of the charts that year, in so far as the release schedules were quite slow, and thus made chart movements (temporarily, at least) that bit slower.

What this did afford, however, was the opportunity for some more recent hits that had already been out for several weeks – or months, in some cases – to embed themselves near the top end of the Top 40, and thus become future classics.

Although the reputation of “How Do I Live”, the debut UK single for US teen country singer LeAnn Rimes, was far preceding it before it became a hit across the Atlantic. Released in the States in May 1997, as the first single off her second album – and debut album here – Sittin’ On Top Of The World – the soaring and emotive Diane Warren penned power ballad was sung with surprisingly heartfelt emotion for a vocalist who was just 14 years old as she was at the time.

The trouble was that it became a hit before the vocalist that was set to score success with it – Trisha Yearwood – released her version, which was to be lifted from the soundtrack of the action thriller blockbuster Con Air, starring Nicolas Cage.

Yearwood was drafted in primarily because the movie’s executives at Touchstone Pictures were, much like we saw with Celine Dion and Titanic a few weeks back, concerned about the appropriate nature of the song in the film.

In this case, it was LeAnn singing a song for a film which was quite far out of her being its intended audience (it was rated a 15 certificate). But what this did lead to was a split of which version of the song was more popular in which country; in Ireland and Australia, for instance, it was Trisha’s version that was the bigger hit, also then going onto win a Grammy Award.

But here in Blighty it was LeAnn Rimes’ recording that took off. Thanks to early patronisation from Radio 2 and easy listening stations, it crossed over to commercial radio quickly went into heavy rotation, and upon its release in late February 1998, it entered the UK top 10 at #7. However, it did something most unusual for a mid-table top 10 hit at that time.

It kept on selling steadily and consistently, and it’s peak position was equalled a further eight weeks into its chart run, which was both the longest of the year – over six months, in fact – and all, this you will note, for a single which hadn’t even reached the top 5, let alone number one, in its charting lifetime. Selling over 700,000 copies, it was the sixth best selling single of 1998 in the UK.

For a good two years, it would remain the song she remained best known for here in the UK, until the release in November 2000 of another Diane Warren penned classic, “Can’t Fight The Moonlight” – which we have already discussed on The Story of Pop: 2000, and you can read more about above.

But of the two singles over a quarter of a century on, it’s probably still “How Do I Live” you’re still likely to hear playing more; quite simply, it’s a masterclass in how to deliver a song penned by one of the all time greatest American songwriters in Diane Warren, but delivered by a really great vocalist. It’s simplicity and emotion are what has kept it as one of the late 90s most enduring classics.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1998. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1998.

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