Country music is three chords and the truth.

-- Harlan Howard, the Dean of Nashville Songwriters

All I got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth.

-- Bono in U2's cover of the Bob Dylan classic All Along the Watchtower.

In a speech before the World Affairs Council and the Texas International Trade Alliance, Robert McTeer, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, used a song by Sara Evans, "Three Chords and the Truth", as his introduction to what he summarized as a sermon on comparative advantage and regional free trade agreements. (For those of you who are interested, the full text of the speech is available at

The lyrics of the song performed by Sara Evans. It's in D, but, like all good country songs, the chorus practically sings itself as you read it. Songwriting credits go to Sara Evans, Ron Harbin, and Aimee Mayo.

And I don't know why, I don't know how
But with his song he turned my life and
This old car around
Just when I thought I was over you
He changed my life with three chords and the truth

Sara Evans' critically acclaimed debut album, which was titled after this song, was released by RCA Nashville at the end of September of 1997. Album track listing:

  1. True Lies
  2. Shame About That
  3. Three Chords And The Truth
  4. If You Ever Want My Lovin'
  5. Imagine That
  6. Even Now
  7. I Don't Wanna See The Light
  8. I've Got A Tiger By The Tail
  9. Unopened
  10. Walk Out Backwards
  11. The Week The River Raged

The words of Harlan Howard are also referenced in the title of a history of country music by Laurence Leamer, Three Chords and the Truth. The book combines equal parts name dropping sensationalism of recording stars and biography of the major producers who actually chart the direction of the genre.

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