October 14, 2008
Written by Vivian Keith and Ben Peters
“Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” written by Vivian Keith and Ben Peters, is a timeless classic about the complications of unrequited love. The song was written in the late 1960s and was recorded more than two dozen times. The song had achieved modest success by other performers, but its most famous recording is courtesy of Freddy Fender.
In the late 1950s, Fender had a regional hit (as El Bebop Kid) with a Spanish version of “Don’t Be Cruel,” but in 1960, he was sentenced to 5 years for marijuana possession. After his release in 1963, he struggled to regain a foothold in the music industry. In 1971, Fender met producer Huey Meaux and signed with Crazy Cajun Records in yet another effort at musical success.
In 1974, record producer Huey Meaux approached Fender about overdubbing vocals for an instrumental track. Fender performed the song bi-lingual style — singing the first verse in English, then repeating the verse in Spanish. Meaux convinced Fender to record the song, the tale of a desperate man’s unrequited love for his departed companion, was the magic cure for Fender’s fledgling career. His sad tenor set the tone for the gorgeous ballad of longing, as the narrator vows to be patient and wait for his former flame’s return.
“Before the Next Teardrop Falls” immediately took off in popularity when released to country radio in January 1975. The song ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard’s country singles chart in March, spending two weeks atop the chart. Thereafter, the song caught on just as strongly at pop radio stations, and Fender eventually reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 hit as well.
Fender would later record several bi-lingual songs which became major hits, most notably “Secret Love,” but none became quite as popular as “Before The Next Teardrop Falls.” The single was certified gold for sales of 1 million units, and it was named Single of the Year award at the CMAs in 1975. It also helped Fender to win that year’s Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year awards.
“Before the Next Teardrop Falls” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.