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'Whiskey Lullaby': The Story Behind the Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss Tearjerker

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Bill Anderson and Jon Randall's "Whiskey Lullaby" doesn't necessarily contain the most upbeat subject matter. After all, the song is centered on a couple that drinks themselves to death. It took years for their song to become the Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss duet that charted on the country music Billboard charts in 2004.

Jon Randall had just divorced his wife, country singer Lorrie Morgan, and was sleeping on his friend's couch at the time. In an interview with Nashville Songwriters Association International for the Tennessean, Anderson explains that he initially invited Randall over to work on his song idea which was called "Midnight Cigarette."

"He said, "As I was coming to, I was apologizing to my friend. I said, 'I know I've been an inconvenience to you. I've been an intruder, really, in your life and your home. I thank you.'" The friend said to him, "That's all right Jon. I've put the bottle to my head and pulled the trigger a few times myself." I said, "Forget the 'midnight cigarette!' " (laughs) And yet, we were able to take my line and use it as the opening line of the song."

Anderson explained that after they finished the song in 2000, it just sat there for a while, mostly due to the heavy subject matter in their lyrics.

"It wasn't exactly like people were running up and down Music Row looking for double suicide drinking songs."

Eventually, the Dixie Chicks put the song on hold. While it was on hold, Brad Paisley's publishing house got hold of it and played it for him. He decided to put a secondary hold on it. When the Dixie Chicks careers took a turn in 2003, Paisley was officially given the green light that he could record "Whiskey Lullaby."

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According to Anderson, it was Paisley's idea to bring in a female voice.

"He said, "What would you think if I had a female singer sing that second verse?" We had not written it that way. We wrote it for one person to sing all the way through and tell the story. I said, "Wow, that's a pretty cool idea. Who are you thinking about?" He said, "There's only two people I think that could do it. Either Alison Krauss or Dolly Parton."

Paisley's people made a deal with Alison Krauss' people, and she was officially onboard for the duet that was released on Paisley's third album, Mud on the Tires. Though the song peaked at three on the charts, it won the Country Music Association Song of the Year Award and is certified platinum by the RIAA. 

"Whiskey Lullaby" Lyrics:

She put him out like the burnin' end of a midnight cigarette

She broke his heart, he spent his whole life tryin' to forget

We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time

But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind

Until the night

 

He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger

And finally drank away her memory

Life is short, but this time it was bigger

Than the strength he had to get up off his knees

We found him with his face down in the pillow

With a note that said, 'I'll love her till I die.'

And when we buried him beneath the willow

The angels sang a whiskey lullaby

 

The rumors flew but nobody knew how much she blamed herself

For years and years she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath

She finally drank her pain away a little at a time

But she never could get drunk enough to get him off her mind

Until the night

 

She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger

And finally drank away his memory

Life is short, but this time it was bigger

Than the strength she had to get up off her knees

We found her with her face down in the pillow

Clinging to his picture for dear life

We laid her next to him beneath the willow

While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby

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'Whiskey Lullaby': The Story Behind the Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss Tearjerker