Crazy Patsy Cline 1961 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 Read More
Classic Country Singles
Before the Next Teardrop Falls Freddy Fender 1974 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.
Always On My Mind Willie Nelson 1982 Written by Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher and Mark James By the time that Willie Nelson recorded “Always on My Mind,” it had already been tackled by several major pop and country acts. Brenda Lee took it to No. 45 on the country charts in 1972, and Elvis Presley soon followed, having a No. 16 country hit with it in 1973. Given the proximity of the song to Presley’s divorce, it was widely read as his confessional to Priscilla Presley, and in the King’s reading, it sounds like a broken man pleading for forgiveness from the woman that he’s lost. But in Nelson’s hands, the song became something else entirely. By 1982, Willie Nelson was already a superstar, and every time it seemed his career had peaked, he seemed to go one better. Red-Headed Stranger, Waylon & Willie, The Outlaws, Stardust, and “On the Road Again” Read More
Strawberry Wine< How To Get Ex Back /strong> Deana Carter 1997 Written by Matraca Berg & Gary Harrison “Strawberry Wine”, written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison, is a prime example of country radio’s ability to spin an unconventional song, becoming a #1 single despite its subject matter, its length and its distinctive sound and structure. It also exhibits the eloquent quality that marks many of the best songs in the genre. With “Strawberry Wine”, a song about a teenager’s first love and lost innocence at her grandparents’ farm, Deana Carter was able to establish herself as one of country’s brightest new stars in the late 1990s.
When You Say Nothing At All Keith Whitley or Alison Krauss & Union Station 1988/1995 Written by Paul Overstreet & Don Schlitz Sometimes, silence says it best. With “When You Say Nothing at All,” written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, the magic is in the calm and the quiet. The song was a poetic ode to the desperately devoted, and countless people connected with the simple song of love’s mysterious ways. In the narrator’s view, love is often at its most powerful when no words are needed, and even the wordsmith Webster couldn’t define the divine emotion. The song’s multiple readings have resulted in uniquely different takes on the graceful lyric. The two most notable recordings sprung from a troubled singer whose music continues to impact audiences twenty years after his death, and a pure vocalist whose heavenly strains have enraptured country and bluegrass devotees for almost two decades.
Wide Open Spaces Dixie Chicks 1998 Written by Susan Gibson When songwriter Susan Gibson began writing “Wide Open Spaces,” she was living out the experiences of the girl described in the song. A forestry student in Montana, she began writing the lyrics while home for the holidays. Her mother found the notebook after she’d returned to school, and mailed it to her as part of a care package, inspiring her to complete the song. Gibson began performing the song in the clubs around Montana while still in college, and when she became the lead singer of Americana band The Groobees, she included it on their debut album. The producer of those sessions was Lloyd Maines, who thought it would be a perfect fit for his own daughter’s band, who were getting ready to leave the Texas music scene for some broader horizons of their own. The Dixie Chicks had been regionally popular for Read More
I’m No Stranger to the Rain Keith Whitley 1989 Written by Sonny Curtis and Ron Hellard With a whiskey-soaked voice and a traditional bent towards the modern sounds of Nashville, Keith Whitley was a brightly burning star in the country music constellation, one that fell dark far too soon. But his legacy as one of the preeminent singers of his generation is secure due to songs such as his 1989 classic “I’m No Stranger to the Rain.” Written by Sonny Curtis and Ron Hellard, the song encourages perseverance over pain. In the song, Whitley openly admits that impending doom is a daily fixture in his life. As Whitley explains, I’m no stranger to the rain I can spot bad weather And I’m good at finding shelter in a downpour I’ve been sacrificed by brothers Crucified by lovers But through it all I withstood the pain I’m no stranger to the Read More
A Boy Named Sue Johnny Cash 1969 Written by Shel Silverstein “A Boy Named Sue,” written by the jack-of-all-trades Shel Silverstein and immortalized by Johnny Cash, is a story song of great tension and terrific drama that’s been a captivated piece of country songwriting since its release in 1969. Cash performed the song live at San Quentin State Prison in California as part of his second jailhouse album At San Quentin. The concert was also recorded for broadcast by Granada Television on February 24, 1969. It tells the engaging tale of a young man’s quest for revenge on an absent father whose only contribution to his entire life was naming him Sue. The name was the cause of teasing and torment throughout the boy’s childhood. But Sue grew into a man who could easily fend for himself due to all of his childhood fights. In the last verse, Sue finds Read More
I Hope You Dance Lee Ann Womack 2000 Written by Mark D. Sanders & Tia Sillers Although her traditional leanings are the cornerstone of her career, the most notable song of Lee Ann Womack’s career is the international smash “I Hope You Dance,” a message of belief that struck a chord with millions of country music fans and brought Womack’s music to a mainstream audience. Written by Tia Sillers and Mark D. Sanders, it expresses the need to make positive choices and take chances in life, regardless of their consequence. As Sillers explained, “For ‘I Hope You Dance,’ I had written the opening line, ‘I hope you never lose your sense of wonder’. I had just broken up with someone, (and was) going through a brutal divorce.” During a vacation to the beach, Sillers was inspired by her surroundings and found the direction for the rest of the song, with lyrics Read More
The Devil Went Down to Georgia Charlie Daniels Band 1979 Written by Charlie Daniels A work of great electricity, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is one of the most rousing songs in country music’s history, crossing genre lines and generating career-high milestones for the Charlie Daniels Band. With a wicked instrumental setting and a growling vocal from Daniel, it is an energetic story that continues to captivate audiences. The song is the story of the devil, “way behind and “willin’ to make a deal” as he searches through Georgia in desperate need of his latest victim. He meets a young fiddle player named Johnny and challenges him to a fiddle duel. Johnny’s soul is the Devil’s possession if he were to lose, but a win would guarantee Johnny the Devil’s gold fiddle. Johnny accepts the Devil’s offer, proudly telling the Devil that he is “the best there’s ever been.” Read More