When you listen to today’s country, you might be able to hear some of Keith Whitley’s musical imprint in tracks by Charlie Worsham, Mo Pitney, Dierks Bentley and to an extent, Brad Paisley. Whitley’s time on this earth came under the tragic knife of addiction when he was only 34 years old. He only released three proper studio full players, under RCA Records, but his profound way of delivering country stories stuck around throughout much of the ’90s and later, impacting practically every aspiring singer-songwriter every since.
Whitley ultimately charted 19 singles on the Billboard charts and forever solidified himself in the history of country music. His brand of traditionalism came in a time when the format was shifting away from the super-glam Urban Cowboy into what is often coined as the neo-traditionalist era, anchored by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and others. But you could say it all started with Whitley and his solo debut album, 1984’s Hard Act to Follow. Throughout the next few years, he blasted the airwaves with his silky smooth voice and dropped two additional sets, 1985’s L.A. to Miami and 1988’s Don’t Close Your Eyes (the latter was created out of a need to find his creative freedom, resulting in another album to be shelved forever). While he did complete his fourth studio album (titled I Wonder Do You Think of Me) before his untimely death in spring ’89, it didn’t see a release until after, with its lead single (and title track) reaching the top of the charts. His acclaimed solo work followed a string of releases with the Clinch Mountain Boys and later J.D. Crowe’s band the New South. Whitley’s storytelling has stood the test of time and his hits were truly genre-defining. If you are hearing the storyteller for the first time, these seven songs will get you started.
7 Definitive Songs from Keith Whitley:
“When You Say Nothing At All” (from 1988’s Don’t Close Your Eyes)
“I Wonder Do You Think of Me” (from 1989’s I Wonder Do You Think of Me)
“Some Old Side Road” (from 1988’s Don’t Close Your Eyes)
“Homecoming ’63” (from 1985’s L.A. to Miami)
“Don’t Close Your Eyes” (from 1988’s Don’t Close Your Eyes)
“Hard Livin'” (from 1985’s L.A. to Miami)
“Ten Feet Away” (from 1985’s L.A. to Miami)