Music

'I've Always Been Crazy': The Story Behind Waylon Jennings' Wayward Hit 

ASSOCIATED PRESS

There's truly only a few real outlaws in country music, and Waylon Jennings is most certainly one of them. After trying for years to find country music fame in Nashville and becoming increasingly frustrated with the restrictions that went along with the "Nashville sound" or "Countrypolitan" music industry, Jennings, along with Willie Nelson and others, established outlaw country. The outlaw movement was defined by the artists' ability to have freedom within their music while being open about their wild lifestyles. In the early '70s, the outlaw movement brought Jennings success with the release of albums like Lonesome, On'ry and Mean, The Ramblin' ManI've Always Been Crazyand hit songs such as "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" and "I Ain't Living Long Like This." 

 

Towards the late 1970s however, Jennings began to have real troubles with his cocaine addiction. He wrote about his struggles candidly in his 1996 autobiography, Waylon

"I was killing myself. I'd definitely hit bottom with it," he wrote. "I would never sleep. I'd stay up six or seven days or nights at a time, and I wouldn't go home. My health was bad, I had dizzy spells where I could hardly drive, I had cars strewed all over this town, because I'd get somewhere, and I'd have to leave 'em and have somebody else take me home."

In 1977, Jennings was busted for those drugs by federal drug enforcement officers while recording a song for a Hank Williams Jr. album. The singer had been sent a package that contained cocaine, but his drummer Richie Albright flushed the drugs before the officers found them. He was still booked on charges, but never convicted, although the bust made news all over the country. In 1978, Jennings released his album, I've Always Been Crazy, on RCA Victor records. The project addressed his outlaw lifestyle and his run-in with the officers.

The news of his almost-drug-conviction didn't stall sales of his album, however. The title track, "I've Always Been Crazy," was released as the lead single one month before the album was released, and it spent three weeks at number one on the country chart (now Billboard Hot Country Songs chart). The song was written solely by Jennings, and in it, the singer is brutally honest about his lifestyle. Jennings confronts his issues and his faults in the song -- singing, "I can't say I'm proud of all of the things that I've done, but I can say I've never intentionally hurt anyone" -- but concludes that being "crazy" has essentially kept him from going insane.

"Beautiful lady, are you sure that you understand the chances you're taking loving a free living man / Are you really sure, you really want what you see / Be careful of something that's just what you want it to be," he sings in the third verse.

Jennings also addresses his arrest and questions the outlaw movement in the album's track, "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand." The album also includes "Billy," "A Long Time Ago," "As the 'Billy World Turns," a medley of Buddy Holly hits (including "Peggy Sue"), Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line," Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," "Girl I Can Tell (You're Trying to Work It Out)," and "Whistlers and Jugglers."

"I've Always Been Crazy" and the album of the same name were released toward the end of the outlaw movement, and they serve to perfectly describe why Jennings was a real outlaw. He didn't just sing about being one -- he lived the lifestyle -- and that's certainly reflected in the song.

'I've Always Been Crazy' Lyrics:

I've always been crazy and the trouble that it's put me through
I've been busted for things that I did, and I didn't do
I can't say I'm proud of all of the things that I've done
But I can say I've never intentionally hurt anyone

I've always been different with one foot over the line
Winding up somewhere one step ahead or behind
It ain't been so easy but I guess I shouldn't complain
I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane

Beautiful lady, are you sure that you understand
The chances you're taking loving a free living man
Are you really sure, you really want what you see
Be careful of something that's just what you want it to be

I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane
Nobody knows if it's something to bless or to blame
So far I ain't found a rhyme or a reason to change
I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane

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'I've Always Been Crazy': The Story Behind Waylon Jennings' Wayward Hit