Patsy Cline's Heartbreaking Hit 'Crazy' Helps Define the Nashville Sound

This is an undated photo of country western singer Patsy Cline at Nashville's Grand Old Opry. (AP Photo)

The iconic song "Crazy" tells two different tales. It reminds us that Patsy Cline was the right powerhouse vocalist to ring in a new decade of prosperity for the country music business. It also tells the story of how the songwriters needed to bolster the Nashville Sound hid in plain sight, ready to make a lasting mark on the Billboard pop and country charts.

The Voice of the Nashville Sound

Cline needs no introduction. Her work for Decca Records with producer Owen Bradley, including the 1961 pop crossover hit "Crazy," helps define the Nashville Sound. While many of her country music predecessors could be dismissed by non-fans as rural entertainers, Cline was a jazz-pop singer with an incredible vocal range. Her music appealed equally to the established country audience and the Rat Pack crooners' big city crowd.

Plus, Cline and Bradley worked with some of the finest talents to ever call Nashville home: piano player Floyd Cramer, bassist Bob Moore and backup singers The Jordanaires.

Willie Nelson's 'Crazy' Luck

Read More: 'Sweet Dreams': A Country Hit For More Than Just Patsy Cline

Writing credit for "Crazy"--originally titled "Stupid"--goes to none other than Willie Nelson (known back then as Hugh Nelson). Back then, Nelson, Roger MillerMel Tillis and other future stars hustled to get their compositions heard on Music Row. Nelson wrote "Crazy" with Billy Walker in mind, but the singer felt that the song better suited a woman. Roy Drusky balked at proclaiming "I'm crazy" for the same reason (he also passed on "I Fall to Pieces"). Fortunately, Cline's husband Charlie Dick loved Nelson's song so much he pitched it to his wife--the only country singer at the time capable of doing the song's complex melody justice. It became one of Cline's greatest hits, with her execution of each high note making her claims of "feeling so lonely" as believable as any heart-breaking line ever cut to wax.

An Enduring Classic

In the years since the 1963 plane crash that claimed Cline's life, a wide array of artists covered one of her best-known hits. The range of cross-genre talents includes Linda Ronstadt, The Kills, Loretta LynnDottie WestLeAnn RimesWanda Jackson, Neil Young, Kidneythieves, Shirley Bassey and Hayden Panettiere of the TV show Nashville. Nelson recorded multiple versions, including an early recording on his debut album ...And Then I Wrote and a live trio accompaniment with Elvis Costello and Diana Krall. As long as Cline's legend permeates country music lore, there's no reason to think that "Crazy" won't stay as relevant as the hits of Johnny Cash and Nelson's other legendary compositions.

In 2021, the song got its first-ever music video, filmed at Dee's Country Cocktail Lounge and featuring an appearance by current country star Mickey Guyton.

"It is wonderful that 'Crazy' remains such a beloved song 60 years after mom recorded it and it's very exciting that its 60th anniversary is being celebrated with this great new video," Julie Fudge, Cline's daughter, told the Associated Press. "I hope that mom's fans enjoy it and that it also helps new audiences discover her music."


This story previously ran on Jan. 20, 2019.

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Patsy Cline's Heartbreaking Hit 'Crazy' Helps Define the Nashville Sound