Music Friday: ‘Emeralds From Mountains Thrust Towards the Sky’ in 1998’s ‘I’ll Be’

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Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fantastic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Edwin McCain employs a key “emerald” reference in his timeless hit, “I’ll Be” — a tune that was selected by one-million-plus Dr. Phil viewers in 2005 as the best wedding song ever written.

The romantic gemstone metaphor is in the very first verse of the memorable 1998 tune: “The strands in your eyes that color them wonderful / Stop me and steal my breath / And emeralds from mountains thrust towards the sky / Never revealing their depth.”

Emeralds, in this case, embody the characteristics of his girlfriend: precious, beautiful, majestic, mysterious and sublime.

While most listeners would bet the farm that McCain intended “I’ll Be” to be a heartwarming love song, the 53-year-old singer-songwriter revealed that it was actually written as a prayer in a moment of personal and professional desperation. He was going through a rough breakup with his girlfriend while struggling with the unwieldy demands of his record label.

“It was kind of a Hail Mary prayer for me, personally,” he told songfacts.com. “The idea was that maybe if I write my future, it’ll come true.” He told the music website that, despite the misinterpretation of “I’ll Be,” he is very pleased that his song has become a favorite wedding song and he’s always proud to play it in concert.

“I’m not associated with the ’90s,” he said. “I’m associated with weddings. So it never ends. It’s timeless.”

McCain also revealed his inspiration for the song’s repeating phrase, “cryin’ shoulder,” and its final line, “The greatest fan of your life.”

He explained to hudsonandemily.com, “There was a girl I dated who was on her way to being an actress and it was one of those things where it was never going to last, but I remember I used to always tell her I’d be her greatest fan.”

He continued, “That and I overheard a drunk guy at a bar fumble over his words about being a ‘shoulder to cry on’ or ‘crying shoulder’ and I remember writing it down on a bar napkin because that phrase sort of hit me the right way, and I went home and wrote it all down, and there you go.”

“I’ll Be,” which was released as the first single from McCain’s second album, Misguided Roses, rose to #5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and stands as McCain’s biggest hit.

Born in Charleston, SC, McCain toured with Hootie and the Blowfish in the early 1990s and eventually signed with his tourmates’ label, Atlantic Records. McCain has released 11 albums and continues to perform live, with dates already scheduled through September 2024.

Check out the official video of McCain singing “I’ll Be.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“I’ll Be”
Written and performed by Edwin McCain.

The strands in your eyes that color them wonderful
Stop me and steal my breath
And emeralds from mountains thrust towards the sky
Never revealing their depth

And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love
I’ll be captivated, I’ll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above

And I’ll be your cryin’ shoulder
I’ll be love suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life

And rain falls angry on the tin roof
As we lie awake in my bed
And you’re my survival, you’re my living proof
My love is alive, and not dead

And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love
I’ll be captivated, I’ll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above

And I’ll be your cryin’ shoulder
I’ll be love suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life.

And I dropped out, I burned up, I fought my way back from the dead
I tuned in, I turned on, remembered the thing that you said

And I’ll be your cryin’ shoulder
I’ll be love suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life

And I’ll be your cryin’ shoulder
I’ll be love suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life
The greatest fan of your life.

Credit: Screen capture via Youtube.com.



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