Who would lay down her life?
Swallow the poison, pick up the knife?
Maybe I’d cry
Just a teardrop or two
I would not die for you
I would not die for you”
— from “Oh Romeo” by Mindy McCready
From the autumn of 1997 well into the summer of ’98, “Oh Romeo” was one of several tracks on Mindy McCready’s sophomore album, If I Don’t Stay the Night, that remained in heavy rotation on my CD player. I admired the protagonista of the song (whose remix became a surprise minor pop hit in the UK, peaking at No. 41 in 1998). She was a woman willing to let love make her weak in the knees but determined not to let them buckle in its throes. She wanted to live — with or without him.
Sadly, the woman singing the song, then-22-year-old rising star Mindy McCready, who died on February 17 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, lacked both that strength, resolve and determination to survive. Her career started promisingly, with a double-platinum debut album, 1996’s Ten Thousand Angels, which spawned a trio of Top 10 country hits, including the No. 1 “Guys Do It All the Time.” She was the Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift of her day — the distaff future of country music, Shania Twain for the Seventeen set.
But something happened on the way to superstardom. Her albums sales slipped and so did her airplay. It didn’t help that her private life became a soap opera of demons and delirium that ran for nearly a decade, until her death. There were failed relationships (including an engagement to actor Dean Cain), domestic abuse (at the hands of another ex), suicide attempts, substance abuse, a sex tape, arrests and myriad legal problems, culminating in the January 13 shooting suicide of her boyfriend, record producer David Wilson, the father of one of the two sons that she left behind.
As has been the case with so many tragic talents before her (since the early ’00s, she’d been like the country-music version of Amy Winehouse), McCready seemed destined for implosion. I, for one, still hoped that she’d be able to halt her long sad slide, turn her life around and pour her pain into great music. Once again, we’ll never know what could have been.
Three Reasons Why If I Don’t Stay the Night Is One of My Favorite Mainstream Country Albums of the ’90s
“If I Don’t Stay the Night”
“Only a Whisper”