Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Willie Nelson’s ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’

Last week, our Americana correspondent David Jarman launched a new weekly series entitled ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken’, with our regular contributors providing a short topical piece, with a link to the previous weeks piece. He set the ball rolling with ‘Blue’ by Joni Mitchell, and today Managing Director of Belles and Gals, Nick Cantwell, takes up the baton with Willie Nelson’s ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’.

In doing research for this song, it was something of a surprise to see that it wasn’t written by Willie Nelson. The song first appeared in 1947, written by Fred Rose and performed by Roy Acuff. Hank Williams, Gene Vincent and Slim Whitman also recorded the song. However, it was the Willie Nelson version that attracted the most interest, as part of his concept album ‘Red Headed Stranger’.

This version is simply wonderful – there’s no big arrangement which was unusual in 1970’s country music, being something of a nod to the time that it was written. Willie Nelson’s vocals just carry the song along, telling the story of a parting of the ways in a relationship – the first verse setting the scene perfectly.

In the twilight glow I see,
Blue eyes cryin’ in the rain,
When we kissed goodbye and parted,
I knew we’d never meet again

The song would give Willie Nelson his first ever number one, and ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ was named as one of the top 100 country music songs of all time in a 2004 Rolling Stone Magazine poll. The song is the fifth track on the ‘Red Headed Stranger’ album, an album that defied the odds – Columbia executive Rick Blackburn later stated:

Red Headed Stranger was a hit for all the wrong reasons. It didn’t follow the formula, the fashionable mix of the day. There were 1,000 reasons that record should not be a hit. But the Red Headed Stranger project took on Willie’s personality and became a hit for the right reasons – because it was Willie Nelson. It was Willie’s statement


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