25 Years of "End of the Road": The Breakup Song Everyone Fell In Love With

It's summertime in the year 1992. You can't get this new song out of your head. It's been playing on all the top 40 stations in town. It's slowly becoming the hit of the summer, but it's bigger than that. The song hits every emotional heart string of your soul. And because you can't seem to get past your feelings for an ex-girlfriend, you need this song to help you cope. You go as quickly as you can to your nearest record store. You're determined to get your hands on the single. Your Walkman desperately needs this. You search the "Sizzlin' Summer Songs" rack and, staring at you is a cassette single of Boyz II Men's "End of the Road." You'll be playing, rewinding, and replaying this tape until the magnetic strip falls out.

The cassette single for End of the Road.

The cassette single for End of the Road.

1992: A Big Year in Music

There were some watershed moments in the world of music in 1992. Whitney Houston married Bobby Brown. Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love became parents. And the world was introduced to one of the greatest R&B groups in history, Boyz II Men. In the water cooler convos regarding R&B of the 90s, Boyz II Men is the given of any talk. They’re the standard bearer. There is little disagreement that they're the GOATs of 1990 R&B music, and quite possibly the 90s music period.

But it all kicked off with a ballad so packed with romantic emotion that even the singers themselves began crying while recording it. So in honor of the 25th anniversary of End of the Road, here are seven important things to know about the song's impact.

Seven Things To Know about End of the Road

1. The song reeks of desperation from a dude who really needs to let his cheating girl go. The lyrics, sweet and somber as they may be, paint the picture of a naive man hoping a woman he is helplessly in love with that is running around on him will come back to him. The man literally can't sleep at night without said lady friend. He openly admits he can't let go even though they've come to the end of the road. Wake up, bro.

2. The song isn't just about the end of a romantic relationship. In an end-of-year roller skating party in 6th grade, I dedicated EOTR to my teacher Mrs. Herron. I didn't have a crush on her or anything, but dedicating a nice song to a nice teacher seemed like the nice thing to do, though a tad creepy as I think back on it now (and the lyrics). This is the problem with being a sentimental person and realizing it at the age of 12.

3. This song became so big, Boyz II Men had to re-release their first album. Cooleyhighharmony stood as a solid album on its own in its first release in 1991. When EOTR was tapped as a soundtrack single for the movie Boomerang, the success it experienced gave Boyz II Men so much attention they saw it only fitting to release their debut with the new single added.

4. Boyz II Men brought baritone back. As a generation before had in Barry White and Issac Hayes with deep baritone voices, Mike McCary became that for those growing up in the 90s. His deep vocals along with interludes of plain speak in the middle of EOTR not only gave the song variance but gave pre-pubescent boys an unrealistic expectation of how their voice would sound after puberty. Man, the teen years were fantastic.

We can't all have a voice like Mike McCary.

We can't all have a voice like Mike McCary.

5. End of the Road ended 1992 as the best-selling single of the year. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in mid-August and stayed there until late November. Ironically enough, its record-breaking 13 consecutive weeks at #1 was upended by the song that replaced it, Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You. Prior to the 13-week run, the record was held by Elvis Presley for the double-sided single Don't Be Cruel/Hound Dog which are two songs also referring to a terrible woman running around on a man. End of the Road also won a Grammy and was ranked as the 6th best song of the 1990s. 

6. Before Justin Bieber mangled the Spanish language, Boyz II Men made it beautiful. Not that it wasn't always that way, but few non-Latino artists can take a hit song in English and make it sound equally fantastic in another language. Al Final Del Camino (End of the Road) was also on the re-released of Cooleyhighharmony, and it sounds just as great as the English version.

7. End of the Road is one of the most popular graduation songs ever. Lyrically speaking, it’s pretty obvious that’s what it is. The chorus alone, however, lends it to other life events, most notably high school graduations.  Few songs pack the emotional punch EOTR does, and fewer still on multiple levels, even non-romantic ones.

The Legacy of a Break-Up Jam

The enduring epic that End of the Road is will live on. It birthed a group’s stardom and remains a perfect anthem on breakups and how to write and sing the holiest of love songs. You can still hear it in your mind, late on a Saturday night, the DJ comes on air…

“This next song goes out Amanda. Jason really wants you to know he’s sorry and he loves you and really wants you back. Here’s Boyz II Men with “End of the Road…”

Of course, that’s back when you either had to drive to Walmart and buy a cassette tape or CD to hear a song or if you’re lucky to get your call into the local radio station to request it. Those days are gone. You might argue the romance of those times has subsided as well, but for many, songs like EOTR live on.

For proof of it, you don’t have to go far. Just look on the page dedicated to the song on Genius’ website. Scroll to the comments, and read what a man named Eugene has to say: “When I sing it, it makes me cry, and I am in my seventies, I miss her so much.”