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This was written by songwriting team of Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. Reid got the idea from a newspaper article about a guy who got drunk and shot up his girlfriend's car. When the judge sentenced him and asked him what he had learned, he said, "You can't make a woman love you if she don't."
Reid and Shamblin began writing this with a fast tempo. It came together when they slowed it down.
Linda Ronstadt was considered to sing this.
Both Nancy Wilson, in 1994, and Boyz II Men, in 2009, charted on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs with cover versions of this ballad. The song has also been covered by George Michael and Prince.
Before Mike Reid became a songwriter and Country music artist, he played defensive tackle for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.
Producer Don Was told Spinner UK the session for this song stands out for him as a time when he stood back and watched greatness come out. Said Was: "We knew this was a great song; we had Bruce Hornsby in there playing piano with her. But when she connected to this thing, I don't even know how to describe it. But I guess it's like someone hooking you up to an electrical current; it was a physical experience to sit there and listen to it as it was going down there in the studio. And it was incredibly emotional. The only thing we ever had to change was a couple of lines where she started sobbing while she was singing. It was just an emotional thing, and she connected to the core of the song, and it was magnificent. And you can hear it today. It's tough for me to listen to that record today and not get really emotional. And I can't even relate to the song. It's, like, a woman's song. It's not what the song is about that gets me, it's some indescribable thing about the raw emotion in her performance."
The song reached its highest chart position in the UK in 1997 when a cover by George Michael released as a double A-side alongside "Older" peaked at #3. Another charting version was by Adele, which climbed into top 40 in October 2012. It was originally included on iTunes Festival: London 2011, an EP of songs released in the wake of her 2011 iTunes Festival appearance.
A version by The Voice contestant Josh Kaufman reached #71 on the Hot 100. Kaufmann is a Soul singer and singer-songwriter from Indianapolis, Indiana.
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