Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Crystal Gayle, “The Sound of Goodbye”

“The Sound of Goodbye”

Crystal Gayle

Written by Hugh Prestwood

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 13, 1984


#1 (1 week)

January 28, 1984

Hugh Prestwood has written some of the greatest country songs for some of the greatest country singers, and his first number one hit as a songwriter set the precedent for everything that came after.

“The Sound of Goodbye” is a brilliant piece of songwriting that is elevated by a flawless vocal performance from Crystal Gayle and a pop-flavored production from Jimmy Bowen that still sounds fresh forty years later.

The bridge is especially stunning thanks to Gayle’s interpretive gifts, as she delivers a difficult turn of phrase with eloquent emotion: “Time is forever, but love is a fire, and one day it’s one degree colder.”  She doesn’t just make the irregular rhyme of “one day” and “one DE-gree” sound pleasant to the ears.  She heightens the impact of the line by varying her vocal by the smallest degree, perfectly calibrating the melody to match Prestwood’s creative lyric.

There’s a Bluebird Show on YouTube featuring Prestwood that aired in the late nineties, and he talks about how he thought “The Sound of Goodbye” wasn’t quite finished, and it wasn’t until he heard Gayle’s version become a hit on the radio that he fully appreciated the worth of the song he had written.  I think that might be because Prestwood’s songs are closer to poetry than most country songs, and the restrictiveness of the typical country record’s structure requires a particularly gifted singer to make his compositions reach their full potential.

You hear it on Randy Travis’ “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart,” Kathy Mattea’s “Asking Us to Dance,” Trisha Yearwood’s “The Song Remembers When,” and  Alison Krauss’ version of “Ghost in this House.” 

It’s long past time for Gayle to get her propers for being as extraordinary a vocalist as those singers, as well as for making a place on country radio for as literary a songwriter as Hugh Prestwood.  This is Gayle at her creative peak, delivering top rate material in collaboration with Nashville’s strongest producer of the eighties.

“The Sound of Goodbye” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: George Strait, “You Look So Good in Love” |

Next: Ronnie Milsap, “Show Her”

Open in Spotify


  1. I’m with you this is by far my favorite Crystal song and I’ve always felt that bridge was fire! Pop country done right is just as good as traditional country done right and this song and many before proves it. I’ve flipped my feeling of the early 80s being one of the worst periods in country. The 2010s on the other hand has no redeeming qualities and will forever be my least favorite decade. Thankfully the 2020s is starting to reverse that decades trends.

  2. Cage The Songbird is my favorite Crystal Gayle album. I don’t know if it’s her best, but it’s the one I listen to the most.

    When I first heard The Sound Of Goodbye, I was pleasantly shocked. This was a whole new style for Crystal. And I loved it.

    I believe Mr. Prestwood was going through a divorce when he wrote the song. Regardless, he poured out some great emotions in those lyrics.

    Crystal always brings an emotional elegance to anything she sings, but she put it all out there for this vocal. This song, and the follow up, I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love, was Crystal at her very best.

    She and Bowen created masterpieces with this album. If you’ve never heard it, try listening to it. You’ll be glad you did.

  3. I had no idea Hugh Prestwood wrote this gem. It sees obvious now, but what a wonderful surprise almost forty years later.

    I just love the relentless ticking-sound of inevitability on this song. Country music’s version of the “Tell-Tale Heart!”

    Gayle’s vocals are so clear and clean.

    I am determined to spend (at least) a weekend with Crystal Gayle’s albums to make up for lost time and missed opportunities.

    Sounds like “Cage the Songbird” is the place to start

    I know only her radio singles.

    This song is arguably my favorite of those.

    Amazing that you can dig into 1984 and still turn up country gold!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.