Lee Ann Womack Celebrates the “Dance” That Never Ends

"She sent the world a beautiful message," the invitation read, "and over two million people responded."

MCA Records celebrated the continuing appeal of Lee Ann Womack ’s signature hit "I Hope You Dance" with a party marking the sale of 2 million copies of her album of the same title. The event was held Thursday (May 17) in the elegantly appointed Volunteer Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Nashville.

"Welcome to a milestone celebration in a day of celebration," MCA Nashville chairman Bruce Hinton told his guests, alluding to the grand opening ceremonies for the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum which concluded only a few hours earlier. He noted that Womack, with her traditional style and contemporary success, was a fitting symbol for the best of country music past and present.

Hinton reminded the crowd that "I Hope You Dance" spent six weeks at No. 1 on the country charts and was now in its eighth week at No. 1 on the adult contemporary rankings. Its importance has been further solidified, he said, through Womack’s two appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, her performance of the song at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies and her command performance on Oprah.

"Some people ask me what I look for in an artist," said MCA Nashville president Tony Brown. "You look for what Lee Ann Womack has … She has been so great so long." While Brown cheered Womack’s double-platinum status, he said — with a smile — that he is expecting the album to sell 5 million copies.

Womack admitted she was nervous when she took the microphone to accept her plaque. "The first time I won an award," she said, "I forgot to thank my label president, and I thanked my make-up artist and hair stylist."

Womack credited much of her success to the artistic freedom her label had given her. “Everybody at Decca [her original MCA-owned label] and then at MCA allowed me to make the kind of music I wanted to make," she said, "with twin fiddles and steel guitar." She thanked her husband and the album’s co-producer, Frank Liddell, for introducing her to the music of "names I had never heard of — like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young."

Mark Wright, Womack’s other co-producer, observed in accepting his plaque, "In these times of wondering where [country music is] going next, it’s nice to see a purist do it." Liddell added, "In a day when singing isn’t as important as it used to be, she flat-out sings her ass off."

To further tie the Womack and Hall of Fame celebrations together, Hinton presented originals of all the recording paperwork for "I Hope You Dance" to Hall of Fame director Kyle Young.

Besides the double-platinum plaque, MCA also presented Womack two handcrafted Lladro porcelain figurines of dancers, and her manager, Erv Woolsey, gave her a sculpture of a dancer.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.