Part of the '90s wave of honky tonk hitmakers that brought Country to new commercial heights, John Michael Montgomery made his name primarily as a romantic balladeer. Yet despite his sometimes adult contemporary leanings, his vocal style remained solidly grounded in country tradition.
“I Swear” is one of Montgomery’s songs that serenade the airwaves for over 2 decades now. It is a ballad written by Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers that became a hit for two acts in 1994. The song expresses promises of a lover to his significant other, that he will always love her.
Country or pop version, the song topped the charts
In an interview with Songwriter Universe magazine, songwriter Myers explained that he and Baker wrote the song in 1987 and recorded the demo at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They couldn't convince anyone to record the song. But in 1992 they recorded a new demo of the song which a year later got the attention of John Michael Montgomery, who recorded it in 1993. Atlantic Records thought the song had huge crossover potential and considered having Montgomery record a pop version, but the label head didn't want to upset country radio stations, so they had their new vocal group All-4-One record the song with David Foster producing the track. Their version was released as the second single from their debut album in the spring of 1994. About six months after Montgomery's version was released as a single.
John Michael’s version of the hit song “I Swear” reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts the week of February 5.1994 where it stayed for four consecutive weeks!
The song was used in a number of movies and TV shows, including the 2017 "Winter of Our Discontent" episode of American Horror Story: Cult where the cult leader (played by Evan Peters) concocts a copulation ritual set to this song. "This is a holy song now," he says. "Like the Lord's Prayer. From this day forward, it shall be played whenever a messiah is conceived."
A century ago, a promise and a handshake were as good as a legally binding agreement. Nothing was stronger than saying, "You have my word."
There was a sacred quality to one's word that was not taken as lightly as it is today. Back then breaking a promise was no small transgression. Today, talk is cheap and a promise is not necessarily a promise. We often think ethics has to do with actions but it's also about words.
When you operate with complete integrity, what you say will be taken at face value, your intentions will be assumed honorable, and your handshake will be as good as a contract. Most importantly, you can take great pride in the standards that you’ve set for yourself and sleep well at night knowing that your conscience is clear. As for others, just when they think they’re fooling the world, they’ll realize that they’re only fooling themselves. A promise is a promise after all.