Keith Whitley, “I’m No Stranger to the Rain”

I’m No Stranger to the Rain
Keith Whitley

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 rain

He goes on to give praise to God’s design, a plan that won’t allow for depression during the worst times. The old school-leaning Whitley displayed his gift for nuance, lending a confessional tone to the resilient tune. His pure vocal style was a perfect match to the poetic lyrics and understatedly skillful musical setting provided by producers Blake Mevis and Garth Fundis. The deft touch on display by Whitley gives a certain wisdom to lyrics about a man determined to “ride the wind and dance in a hurricane.”

At the time, Whitley was enjoying the achievements of Don’t Close Your Eyes, a gold album that contained three #1 singles, including this anthem of strength. But the sense of accomplishment in the wake of these triumphs wasn’t strong enough to blunt Whitley’s bouts with alcoholism. Whitley ended up drinking himself to death, a tragic end to a short, but brilliant career. His passing in May 1989 came in the midst of resounding success, and it was an unfortunate loss of such rich potential. But the CMA voters honored him posthumously with the award for Single of the Year in 1989 for the moving ode to unwavering resolve during the most sorrowful of days, and Whitley’s music continues to influence current artists and capture the imagination of new generations of country music fans.

“I’m No Stranger to the Rain” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.


  1. I remember “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” being played on a local radio station with the announcement of Keith Whitley’s passing. It’s funny how some life occurrences are as clear as almost 20 years ago. What a tragedy to lose a great artist like Whitley–there is no replicating his style.

  2. I’ve always thought Whitley’s untimely death was one of the greatest losses country music has ever suffered. Right up there with Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline. I truly believe Twitty and Whitley would have continued to have hits well into the 90s had they lived.

    This is also my favorite Whitley track – with ‘I’m Over You’ a close second.

    Also, in Lorrie Morgan’s book ‘Forever Yours, Faithfully’, she tells the story of how this song was played at Keith’s funeral after the preacher read the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat while the storms raged and his followers were bewildered. The story can be foudn in Mark 4:35 – 41.

    Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said
    to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” While disciples were struggling for life and death, what did Jesus do? He was in sound sleep on a cushion in the back. When they were scared to death, they remembered Jesus and arouse him, crying out to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” While they were struggling for life and death, Jesus seemed so indifferent to them.

    “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” When disciples cried out to him, Jesus got up immediately and rebuked the wind and the waves, “Quiet, be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

    The minister at Keith’s funeral then remarked “and you thought Keith Whitley was the first man to sing ‘I’m No Stranger To The Rain’ …”

    I’ve always been fascinated by that story – and it’s stuck with me ever since I read it. A very fitting end to a man whose very life was as stormy as the Sea of Galilee that day.

    Sorry for the long-winded post, I just wanted to share that …

  3. J.R. … Thanks for sharing that story.

    This has always been such a great song, country or otherwise. He really captured something with it.
    I remember exactly where I was when I heard he passed and I can’t believe it’s been 20 yrs!
    I could not agree more that he, Conway,Hank, and Patsy left us all much too soon.

    I always wondered where Keith would be today.
    Compared to his contemporaries, would he have persevered like an Alan Jackson or George Strait or would he have been kicked to the curb by the industry but still appreciated by the fans like Lorrie Morgan, Kathy Mattea, and others?

  4. My favorite country song from the late 1980’s. What a tragedy. I cant believe it’s been almost 20 years. I remember exactly what i was doing when i heard of his passing.

  5. I thought then and I think now that what is really missing from country music are more singers like Keith Whitley. In a short time he showed what happens when a real singer takes a song and makes it real, personal and open, all at the same time. There was no ego or image connected to his singing. Just an excellent song and a great voice.

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