By Sterling Whitaker
Garth Brooks scored one of the biggest — and most controversial — hits of his career with “The Thunder Rolls,” but it had actually been previously recorded by another country star.
Brooks wrote the song with Pat Alger, and released it as the fourth and final single from his second album, No Fences. The song reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart, and it spawned a very controversial video in which Brooks, as an abusive husband, gets killed by his long-suffering wife. That video was banned from most video outlets, but ended up winning the CMA Video of the Year award in 1991.
Though it was the first time the song had been released, Tanya Tucker actually cut it in 1988. Her version contains a third verse that Brooks chose not to record, in which the wife appears to be readying to shoot her philandering husband. She later dropped it from the album, which allowed Brooks to then record it for himself. Tucker’s recording, which is more keyboard-oriented than Brooks’ country-rock approach to the track, was eventually released as part of a box set in 1995.
Brooks still performs the song’s lost third verse at his concerts: “She runs back down the hallway and through the bedroom door / She reaches for the pistol kept in the dresser drawer / Tells the lady in the mirror he won’t do this again / ‘Cause tonight will be the last time she’ll wonder where he’s been.” A full version with that verse appears on his Double Live album from 1998.