Keith Whitley has been gone almost as long as he lived, but his songs continue to make a profound impact on country music.
During a recent concert in Emporia, Kansas, Whitley’s widow, legendary country singer Lorrie Morgan, paid tribute to her late husband by covering one of his most popular songs, “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” The third single from the album of the same name, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was released a year prior to Whitley’s death in 1989. The song was Billboard’s No. 1 country single of 1988.
“Don’t close your eyes. Let it be me. Don’t pretend it’s him, in some fantasy. Darling, just once, let yesterday go. And you’ll find more love than you’ll ever know. Just hold me tight when you love me tonight. And don’t close your eyes,” the man begs her.
Written by Bob McDill, the single tells of a man in love with a woman who can’t get past memories of her past relationship, thinking of her past love every time she closes her eyes.
“Don’t close your eyes. Let it be me. Don’t pretend it’s him, in some fantasy. Darling, just once, let yesterday go. And you’ll find more love than you’ll ever know. Just hold me tight when you love me tonight. And don’t close your eyes,” the chorus says.
Although Keith Whitley had deep bluegrass roots, even joining Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys alongside his buddy Ricky Skaggs in 1970, Whitley skyrocketed to country success in part due to his ability to portray emotion through ballads such as “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “When You Say Nothing At All,” “Miami, My Amy,” and “I’m Over You.”
But, Keith Whitley’s success came at a cost. The singer died from alcohol poisoning at only 33- years-old. Whitley left behind his wife, Lorrie Morgan, who he had met while promoting his first full-length studio album and married in 1986. Also left behind was his son, Jesse Keith.
Keith Whitley’s family has helped keep his music alive and well, as have his fellow country artists such as Garth Brooks who has been vocal about the singer deserving a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Just this week, their wish came true as Keith Whitley was announced as one of 2022’s inductees into the Hall of Fame.