3 Songs to Remember Keith Whitley on What Would Have Been His 70th Birthday

Keith Whitley may be one of the most tragic figures in country music. He released two albums before his death in 1989 at the age of 35. Two more would come posthumously. All told, Whitley launched five singles to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Whitley is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry. More importantly, his short career influenced countless artists and his music continues to soundtrack many lives.

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Whitley would have been 70 years old today. With that in mind, we’re going to celebrate his legacy by looking back on a few great songs from his collection

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind Keith Whitley’s No. 1 Hit “Don’t Close Your Eyes”]

“Don’t Close Your Eyes”—Keith Whitley’s First No. 1

After having a promising career as a bluegrass musician, Keith Whitley decided to cross over to country music. However, his now-legendary country career got off to a rough start. His debut EP, A Hard Act to Follow, and his debut full-length L.A. to Miami produced a total of eight singles. Three of them cracked the top 10. Then, in 1987, he released his sophomore album Don’t Close Your Eyes.

Whitley released the album’s Bob McDill-penned title track as the third single and found his first No. 1. It kicked off a string of five consecutive chart-toppers.

“I’m No Stranger to the Rain”—‘90s Country at Its Finest

Written by Sonny Curtis and Ron Hellard, “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” was the third and final single from Don’t Close Your Eyes. It was also the last single Whitley would release before his death.

“I’m No Stranger to the Rain” went to No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. It also brought Whitley a posthumous CMA Award for Single of the Year. Additionally, it was a mainstay on country radio throughout the early ‘90s.

Showcasing Whitley’s buttery vocals and elegant cross-picking, “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” isn’t just a hit. It’s the perfect introduction to Whitley’s music.

“I’m Over You”—Keith Whitley’s Final Solo Hit  

Written by Tim Nichols and Zach Turner, Keith Whitley recorded “I’m Over You” for his final album I Wonder Do You Think of Me. Released posthumously in 1990, the song peaked at No. 3 on the Hot Country Songs chart. It was his final solo hit. The next year, Whitley would get another posthumous hit when “Brotherly Love” featuring Earl Thomas Conley went to No. 2 on the chart.

“I’m Over You” likely would have been a hit even if Whitley hadn’t passed away. However, the lines about drinking too much and looking unhealthy resonated with fans after his death from alcohol poisoning.

Featured Image by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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