Story Behind the Song: Lee Ann Womack, ‘The Fool’
Marla Cannon-Goodman was still working in the medical field, while dreaming of becoming a songwriter, when she first began what became the song "The Fool," recorded by Lee Ann Womack on her eponymous debut album, released in May of 1997. Womack released the tune as a single that same month, and it became her first Top 5 track, peaking at No. 2.
Below, Cannon-Goodman shares with The Boot the long, winding road that "The Fool" took to be written and become one of the biggest hits of Womack's career.
I was working as a nurse when I wrote that. Gene Ellsworth and I had started working on another song, called “Which Way Is Left,” and the song was really terrible, but we had this great melody. So we ended up writing “Which Way Is Left,” and it was still terrible -- but we kept the melody.
I was driving down Music Row, and someone pulled out in front of me one day. It had probably been four or five months since we had written that song, and that tape flew out from under my seat; it was an actual cassette. I was like, “What is this?” and all it said was “melody.” So when I put it in my player, the melody started playing, and it was just us humming along with the melody. The Hall of Fame was still on the corner of the roundabout at that time, and I was right there, in front of that, and when I heard that melody line, that idea popped into my head out of thin air. I like to call it one of those "God gifts."
All the way home, I was singing it to myself over and over again, because it was before cell phones; all I had was a beeper at the time. I was saying it over and over in my head: “I’m the fool in love with the fool who’s still in love with you.” By the time I got home, I was like, “Does that even make any sense?”
I called Gene, and I said, “Tell me if this makes sense to you: 'I’m the fool in love with the fool who’s still in love with you.'” And he goes, “Yeah. It’s a girl who’s in love with a guy who’s in love with somebody else.” I said, “Exactly!” And I sang it to him, and he said, “What is that?” and I said, “It’s the melody we had on that song we wrote a few months ago.”
The next time Gene and I were writing, the next time we got together, we were with Charlie Stefl. It’s funny, because Charlie is actually the first person I sat in a room and wrote a song with, so it ended up being really cool. We were throwing around ideas, and I said, “What about that melody thing?” and we all sat in my garage and wrote it.