November 8, 2008
Written by Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson once referred to it as the best song he’d ever written, and Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers and Dottie West have recorded it, but “Crazy,” a smooth country-pop ballad for the ages, will always be linked to the late, great Patsy Cline.
Nelson wrote the song in early 1961; at the time he was a journeyman singer-songwriter who had written several hits for other artists but had not yet had a significant recording of his own. Cline, on the other hand, was a major superstar who had recently released the classic “I Fall to Pieces.” Nelson originally wrote the song for country singer Billy Walker, but Walker turned it down and Cline elected to record it. The song was released in late 1961, eventually becoming one of her signature tunes, and its success helped launch Nelson as a performer as well as a songwriter.
Nelson was a regular at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, where he met Cline’s husband and pitched the song to him, who then played it for Cline. At first, she disliked the song due to its faster tempo, but Cline’s producer, Owen Bradley, disagreed. He arranged it as a ballad to compromise with Cline. Cline had difficulty reaching the high notes of the song at first due to an injury sustained in a recent major automobile accident, so they postponed the session until the following day. Then, she only needed one take to capture the raw emotion of loneliness and loss.
Loretta Lynn once noted that Cline received three standing ovations. Barbara Mandrell remembers Cline introducing the song to her audiences live in concert saying:
I had a hit out called “I Fall to Pieces” and I was in a car wreck. Now I’m really worried because I have a new hit single out and it’s called “Crazy.”
Cline’s pining ballad still strikes a nerve with country music fans and karaoke junkies, and has gained worldwide acclaim for the simple lyric penned by Nelson and the resonant voice of its singer.