I Can't Make You Love Me

Album: Luck Of The Draw (1991)
Charted: 50 18
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  • This was written by songwriting team of Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. According to Mojo magazine, 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, the guy said, "You can't make a woman love you if she don't."

    The judge was expecting something along the lines of, "I can't shoot stuff because I'm angry."
  • The song is about a woman who knows her man has lost interest and just wants to spend one more night with him before moving on with her life. Instead of lying to herself or trying to work things out, she confronts the reality and seeks closure with that final night together. In the morning, she'll be on her way.
  • Reid and Shamblin began writing this song with a faster tempo; it came together when they slowed it down. When they completed the demo, they thought it might be a good fit for Linda Ronstadt, but the song ultimately went to Raitt, who loved it on first listen. "It was absolutely one of the most honest and original heartache songs I had ever heard," she told the Los Angeles Times. "It was a point of view that I had been on both sides of, and it struck me deeply. I knew immediately I wanted to sing it."

    Getting the news that someone doesn't love you anymore is devastating, but Raitt feels that delivering it is worse.
  • Many artists have recorded this song over the years in a variety of styles. The jazz singer Nancy Wilson was one of the first, taking it to #87 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 1994. Boyz II Men reached #75 on that chart with their 2009 version.

    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 in the UK was by Adele, whose live rendition climbed to #37 in October 2012 (this version was originally included on iTunes Festival: London 2011, an EP of songs released in the wake of her 2011 iTunes Festival appearance).

    Prince included the song on his 1996 album Emancipation, and Priyanka Chopra did an EDM version that made #28 on the Dance chart in 2014.
  • This is likely the most popular song written by an All-Pro NFL star. Co-writer Mike Reid was a star defensive tackle at Penn State and was drafted seventh overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1970. He made two Pro Bowls before quitting football in 1975 so he could pursue music. It was a good career move: he became a top songwriter in Nashville, and also a prominent artist, with a #1 Country hit, "Walk on Faith," in 1990.
  • That's Bruce Hornsby, who had hits with "The Way It Is" and "The Valley Road," on piano. Raitt describes his playing on this song as "Bill Evans meets the hymnal."
  • Introducing this song on his 1996 MTV Unplugged special, George Michael said: "This next song is one of my favorite songs ever. Written... actually I'm not sure who wrote it. But it's sung by a wonderful lady called Bonnie Raitt."

    Mike Reid, who co-wrote the song, thought this was pretty funny. It worked in his favor, as many listeners checked to see who did write the song.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Saturday Night Live opened their February 13, 2016 show with a skit that revolves around this song. Hillary Clinton had recently lost the New Hampshire primary to Bernie Sanders, so in the bit we see people in a restaurant talking about how they admire Clinton, but like Sanders better. Kate McKinnon, portraying Clinton, appears in spectral form crooning this song as she wonders what she has to do to win them over.
  • Carrie Underwood performed this song at her American Idol audition, where we learned that she loves Martina McBride and can cluck like a chicken. She went on to win the competition and become the best-selling Idol alum in history.
  • The Nashville session singer Scat Springs sang on this song's co-writer Mike Reid's 1991 solo album. Springs' daughter, Kandace, grew up to be a popular jazz singer signed to Blue Note records, and when she released a covers album in 2020 called The Women Who Raised Me, she included "I Can't Make You Love Me."

    "I've been doing that song since I used to play at the lounge at the Marriott in downtown Nashville as a teenager," Kandace told Songfacts. "I heard it as a kid driving around in the car with my mom, and it's always been one of my absolute favorite songs. I don't think there's a more emotional lyric anywhere. It moves me every time."

Comments: 27

  • Peter GreigI read another version in Mojo where they rated this song among the 100 best ever.
    It was about a man on death row reflecting on his last few hours before he'd be electrocuted for the murder of his girlfriend because she didn't love him anymore.
  • Anonymous from Guadalupe, AzPrince did a great job covering this song. In fact, his "Emancipation " album was his his 1st covering other people's music("I Can't Make U Love Me"; "One Of Us", "Betcha By Golly Wow ", and another I cannot remember).
  • Teeare from MarylandThis reminds me of a couple times when you wanted someone to love you, but they just don't and it finally dawns on you what you imagined in your head was just that and you feel like an idiot. I tear up every time this song is played.

    Bonnie may not have written this song, but she owns it. No doubt.
  • Mary Helen from HomeI just finished a playlist on youtube of breaking up songs (for my friend and fam, I am sending them songs all the time). But I wanted to use songs that were not the usual he /she left me broke my hera, etc. I am making a list no on songs of unrequited love and thought this would be first on that list. That's where I was t when I first heard that-- in fact just the situation in the lyrics. Ever thin that a song was written just for you??
  • Jeff from Kingston, TnVery emotional performance and genuine. Great break up song which makes you come to terms with a ending relationship. Along with Cryin by Roy Orbinson not many songs have this kind of impact.
  • Thomas from Macon, GaI love her performance and I love the melody but just looking purely at the lyric this may be the greatest song ever. I would put it right there with Clouds by Joanie Mitchell, Moon River by Johnny Mercer (the adjective Huckleberry gets a lot of points) and Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Paul Simon.
  • Dane from Lima,ohio, FlAnother perfect marriage of words & music.I love everything about it.As far as Linda Rondstat goes,the song they both covered is "Love has no pride."
  • Fine Brown Sugar from Kansas City, Moi am a black lady and i am truly in love with this song i sing it with her and we sound exact the same she has some soul in her
  • Paula from Laredo, TxYou just know when someone doesn't feel a damn thing for you. If you have to ask, it's a sure bet that he doesn't feel like you do. Oh, well. Heck of a song.
  • Snkefinger from Washington, DcThis song came out at the time my best friend, who I was and still am totally in love with, announced she was getting married and asked me to walk her down the aisle. I loved her so much. That was 8 yrs ago and this song still makes me cry.
  • Frank from Battle Creek, MiOh...And By The By...Try not to cry when listening to bonnie do it live or studio!!! :_(

    Sorry can't be done...If you own A HEART!
  • Frank from Battle Creek, MiEveryone that I have heard do this song ...Other Than Bonnie Raitt Has crippled This Song... I can sing it better than some...and I Mean It When I Sing It! I live It!!Boo Hoo Bonnie IS THE QUEEN!!!! GM... LAME Prince...GIRL MAN NANCY WILSON...Not of my heart Fame BONNIE RULEZ!!!! LLBR! Love Frank
  • Kylee from Hartford, CtNo matter how many people sing this song, there is no other version like Bonnie's.
  • Butchieboy from Everett, WaBonnie OWNS this song,...
  • Butchieboy from Everett, WaSuch feeling. So emotionally wrenching you must cry and revisit why you were or are there now,...
  • Norrie from Paisley, ScotlandThis is one of those songs that just makes you cry, I know I'm a big girl's blouse but I don't care, George Michael's cover is amazin, Bonnie Raitt rocks man.
  • Terry from West New York, Nji know that linda ronstadt did a recording of this song and i am trying to find it' yet it is not found on any internet links. i am currently going through my old vinyl albums searching for it to pinpoint where she sang this song. she did this well.
  • Peter from London, EuropeI have been in a situation where I wish i could make my woman love me,but she won't...listening to this song makes me feel hopeless and helpless at the same time, but will never give up loving her and fighting for her heart...don't you give up if she is worth it please! good luck
  • Suzanne from White Rock, CanadaI totally know the feeling of this song.
  • Angie from Derby, EnglandI'm a vocalist and covered this song recently.The beautiful melody and sad lyrics caught my ear when first hearing it a few weeks ago.
  • Mark from Humboldt, IaFound this tape in my ex-wife's car and knew it was about us when I first played it
  • Dan from Fairmont, MnOn the TV reality series RockStar: INXS, several of the female contestants tried to cover this song, with little success.

    They all remarked that it is one of the hardest songs to sing...the vocal range, breathing, and emotion contained in the song make it difficult to pull off for all but the most talented voices.
  • Galina from New London, CtI read about her in our local newspaper on the second to front page. Ilove this song
  • Susanna from Bridgeport, CtThis is the most heartbreaking song ever. Makes me cry when I hear it -- cause anyone who has ever been in this situation knows true heartache, loneliness and desperation to get back, even for one night what they once had.
  • Lara from Hackensack, Njthey initially wrote this as uptempo bluegrass, for an artist like randy travis.
  • Michael from Fort Lauderdale, Flwho wrote the lyrics and who wrote music or was it a joint effort by both allen and mike.which one of the two is more lyrically oriented?
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcBruce Hornsby played piano on this. I personally consider this the best song of the nineties.
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