Keith Whitley’s career was tragically cut short, but it gave him just enough time to make his mark on country music. From his first single’s release in 1984 to his untimely death in 1989, Whitley scored 19 hit singles.
Whitley’s alcoholism was known through much of the country music community, and after he married Lorrie Morgan, she tried to help the singer overcome his addiction. The news of Whitley’s death on May 9, 1989 shook the country world, especially when the cause of death was discovered to be his alcohol dependency. He had reportedly spent the weekend partying and was then found at home fully clothed and face down, dead from alcohol poisoning. Whitley was only 34 years old when he died.
Before his death, Whitley made a name for himself in country music with songs including “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and “When You Say Nothing at All.” His first song to climb into the Top 20 was “Miami, My Amy” in 1986. “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was Whitley’s very first No. 1 hit and was quickly followed by several others. “When You Say Nothing at All,” “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” “I Wonder Do You Think of Me” and “It Ain’t Nothin'” were all No. 1 hits soon after his first.
Whitley’s musical legacy continued well past his lifespan. His final studio album was released just a few short months after his death. I Wonder Do You Think of Me scored two No. 1 hits with the title track and “It Ain’t Nothin’.” Stars including Alan Jackson, Tracy Lawrence and Alison Krauss got together for a tribute album to Whitley in 1994, which saw Krauss scoring her first chart hit with “When You Say Nothing at All.” Morgan also helped to restore Whitley’s album Wherever You Are Tonight in 1995.