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Country Class of 1989

by Cyndi Hoelzle

Country Class of 1989

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The year 1989 was a pivotal one in country music. Taylor Swift was born, Keith Whitley died, and a group of artists, dubbed the "Class of '89," brought New Traditionalism to the forefront of country radio. Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt and Mary Chapin Carpenter were all part of that freshman class.

A few years before, country radio had broken wide open, accepting acts like Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Foster & Lloyd, Nanci Griffith and The O'Kanes, who paved the way for the newcomers. The acts from that period, dubbed by Earle as "the great credibility scare," eventually had to leave the format to have hits, but the class of '89 graduated into some of the format's biggest stars and ushered in a new era of commercial success.

Each had his or her unique sound. Clint Black was the first to hit, with his debut single "A Better Man" going to No. 1. Though now known as a Celebrity Apprentice and Lisa Hartman's husband, Black was once the shining future of country music, a singer/songwriter from Houston with a style that was simultaneously current and classic. Garth Brooks was next, bringing a new level of showmanship and in the process reaching a whole new audience. Alan Jackson was a throwback to an earlier era, kind of an anti-Garth. He wrote and sang traditional country, with no need for a big stage show. Mary Chapin was an unlikely star, a folksy singer-songwriter from D.C., and Travis Tritt, a soulful Southern rocker, played the role of the class rebel.

Take a trip down memory lane with these songs that all made the charts in 1989.

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