Mark D. Sanders

Induction Year: 2009

Birth Name: Mark Daniel Sanders

Birth Date: 09-07-1950

Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California

It's never too late to pursue a dream. That's what Mark D. Sanders learned when he decided to become a professional songwriter at the age of 29.

Growing up in Southern California, Sanders played guitar and wrote songs, but never considered it anything more than a hobby. After getting a degree in English literature, he started a career as a high school English teacher. But on the brink of 30, he realized maybe he had sold himself short. "I wanted to do something of significance in my life," he said. "I think some people grow up needing to be creative. It just took me a while to give myself permission to do it."

In the early 1980s, Sanders moved to Nashville. Some dues-paying years followed, with him driving a tour bus at Conway Twitty's Twitty City theme park by day and honing his craft as a writer by night. He networked and played writers' nights. His first cut was "A Matter of Wine" by Mel Tillis in 1982. Two early hits, by Vince Gill ("Oh Carolina") and Judy Rodman ("Girls Ride Horses Too"), enabled him to leave his day job behind. Soon he was writing for Reba McEntire's Starstruck Publishing and landing cuts with Randy Travis, Kathy Mattea, Moe Bandy, the Oak Ridge Boys, Diamond Rio, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

1996 was a banner year for Sanders, with 10 cuts and five #1 hits, including George Strait's "Blue Clear Sky," Faith Hill's "It Matters to Me," Rhett Akins' "Don't Get Me Started" and Lonestar's "No News," and an NSAI Songwriter of the Year Award. But there were even bigger things ahead. In 2000, Sanders co-wrote "I Hope You Dance," a #1 country crossover smash for Lee Ann Womack that collected Grammy, CMA, ACM, ASCAP and NSAI Awards for Best Country Song. Sanders and his co-writer Tia Sillers also wrote a book, based on the inspirational ballad, which went on to sell over two million copies.

Sanders' success has continued into the new century, with hits by Josh Turner, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Joe Nichols and Jack Ingram. In all, he has had over 200 cuts and more than 50 singles. He also sponsors a yearly benefit, Hats Off To High Hopes, to raise money for special-needs children.

"(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing"

(written with Tim Beck)

Trace Adkins1997 #1 country

"Ain't That the Way it Goes"

(written with John Jarrard)

Dave Kemp1983 #75 country

"Blue Clear Sky"

(written with Bob DiPiero, John Jarrard)

George Strait1996 #1 country

"Bobbie Ann Mason"

Rick Trevino1995 #6 country

"Cold Dog Soup"

(written with Guy Clark)

Guy Clark1999 

"Come Cryin' to Me"

(written with John Rich, Wally Wilson)

Lonestar1997 #1 country

"Daddy's Money"

(written with Bob DiPiero, Steve Seskin)

Ricochet1996 #1 country

"Don't Get Me Started"

(written with Rhett Atkins, Sam Hogin)

Rhett Atkins1996 #1 country

"Girls Ride Horses Too"

(written with Alice Randall)

Judy Rodman1987 #7 country

"Heads Carolina, Tails California"

(written with Tim Nichols)

Jo Dee Messina1996 #2 country

"I Hope You Dance"

(written with Tia Sillers)

ACM & CMA Song of the Year, Grammy & ASCAP Awards for Country Song of the Year

Lee Ann Womack2000 #1 country, #1 adult contemporary, #14 pop
Sons of the Desert2000 
Oleta Adams2001 
Reigning Mercy2001 
Tia Sillers2005 

"I'd Rather Ride Around with You"

(written with Tim Nichols)

Reba McEntire1997 #2 country

"I'm All About It"

(written with Ed Hill, Randy Houser)

Randy Houser2010 #49 country

"If You've Got Love"

(written with Steve Seskin)

John Michael Montgomery1994 #1 country

"It Matters to Me"

(written with Ed Hill)

Faith Hill1995 #1 country, #74 pop

"Love Won't Wait"

(written with Lisa Palas, William Robinson)

The Whites1986 #36 country

"Mirror, Mirror"

(written with Bob DiPiero, John Jarrard)

Diamond Rio1991 #3 country

"Money in the Bank"

(written with Bob DoPiero, John Jarrard)

John Anderson1993 #1 country

"No News"

(written with Phil Barnhart, Sam Hogin)

ASCAP Song of the Year

Lonestar1996 #1 country

"Oh Carolina"

(written with Randy Albright, Jim Elliott)

Vince Gill1984 #38 country

"Runnin' Behind"

(written with Ed Hill)

Tracy Lawrence1992 #4 country

"That'd Be Alright"

(written with Tim Nichols, Tia Sillers)

Alan Jackson2003 #2 country, #29 pop

"That's a Man"

(written with Ed Hill, Steve Jones)

Jack Ingram2008 #18 country

"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter"

(written with Ed Hill, Kim Williams)

Reba McEntire1995 #1 country

"There You Are"

(written with Bob DiPiero, Ed Hill)

Martina McBride2000 #10 country, #15 adult contemporary

"They're Playin' Our Song"

(written with Bob DiPiero, John Jarrard)

Neal McCoy1995 #3 country

"Thinking 'Bout Leaving"

(written with Randy Albright, Butch Paulson)

Gene Watson1983 
Butch Baker1984 #56 country

"Victim of the Game"

(written with Garth Brooks)

Garth Brooks1990 
Trisha Yearwood1991 

"Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy"

(written with Garth Brooks)

Chris LeDoux & Garth Brooks1992 #7 country

"Willow in the Wind"

(written with Randy Albright, Lisa Silver)

Kathy Mattea1989 

Mark D. Sanders

Induction Year: 2009