Willie Nelson

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

Composed by Fred Rose

Song Review by

A surprise hit in 1975 on both the country and pop charts (hitting number one on the former and almost reaching the Top 20 on the latter), Willie Nelson's smash version of the 1945 Fred Rose composition "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" sent shock waves through the Nashville establishment, as did the massive success of its accompanying album, The Red Headed Stranger. At a time when pop-oriented countrypolitan records with lush, heavy arrangements were the norm, the spare, stark instrumentation of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" was startlingly effective in its hushed, restrained intimacy. Even when the arrangement is embellished with accordion, electric bass, and harmony vocals, the song still feels like it's just Nelson and a battered acoustic guitar, singing purely and nakedly from the heart. Nelson's performance uncovers the song's depth through his subtlety, his refusal to overplay its mournful melancholy. Matched with the lyrics, his understated vocal conveys a sense of inevitability about the fleeting nature of love and life, as well as highlighting Rose's simple, evocative imagery. While the song's last verse holds out hope for a lovers' reunion in the afterlife, it's clear from the quiet acceptance permeating the rest of the song that the memories of love are what truly resonate with Nelson -- even the painful ones. Which means that it's ultimately irrelevant whether the lovers in the song ever do meet again, since the singer already has what he truly wants: an intensely personal memory of an intensely personal experience, one of the very few things he can take with him even to the grave. It's a thoroughly convincing illustration of the old cliché about having loved and lost and being better for it. On the purely musical side, Nelson's fluid guitar solo matches his vocals in his willingness to play around with the locked-in beat; this was no news to the steadily growing fan base he'd built through hard work and constant touring, but for the country mainstream, it was a radical new approach once it was finally brought out into the open (and made more than a few executives uneasy about releasing the record in the first place). "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" had previously been recorded by artists like Hank Locklin, Kitty Wells, and the Sons of the Pioneers, but it was Nelson's definitive version that made the song a standard, covered many times by both country and traditional pop artists in the years since. It was his first number one country single, helped make him a superstar after over a decade in the music business, and served notice that the outlaw movement's dogged insistence on making records outside of established formulas could result in major commercial and creative success.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Best of Willie Nelson [Capitol/EMI] 1973 Sony Music Distribution 2:22
Red Headed Stranger 1975 BMG / BMG / Sony Music
Honeysuckle Rose 1980 CBS Records / Sony Music Distribution 2:48
Greatest Hits (& Some That Will Be) 1981 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:20
No Image 1983 Warner Home Video
Help Me Make It Through the Night 1984 RCA
Country Music Classics, Vol. 5 (1975-80) 1988
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:48
Live from Austin TX 1990 New West 2:56
No Image 1991
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:17
No Image 1992 GSC
Super Hits 1994 Sony Music 2:20
Three Decades of Country 1994
Various Artists
Priority Records / Priority 2:20
Across the Tracks: The Best of Willie Nelson 1995 Telstar 2:21
Revolutions of Time: The Journey 1975-1993 1995 Columbia/Legacy 2:20
Outlaws Super Hits 1996
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:21
In Concert [Excelsior] 1996 Excelsior Recordings 3:02
Super Hits of the '70s [Sony] 1997
Various Artists
Epic / Sony Music Distribution 2:47
To Lefty from Willie/Always on My Mind/Red Headed Stranger 1997 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:21
Super Hits: Cryin' Time 1998
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:20
Mega Country, Vol. 3 1998
Various Artists
Pmf
16 Biggest Hits 1998 Legacy / Sony Legacy / Sony Music 2:18
Always on My Mind & Other Big Hits Live 1998 Country Stars 3:03
Willie Nelson Live 1998 Columbia River Entertainment Group
The Very Best of Willie Nelson 1999 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy 2:19
On the Road Again [1999] 1999 Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:03
A&E Biography 1999 Capitol 2:21
Ryman Country Homecoming, Vol. 2 1999
Various Artists
Spring Hill Music 2:22
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:19
Red Headed Stranger/To Lefty from Willie [Single Disc Version] 1999 Columbia 2:21
Always on My Mind [Golden Stars] 2000 Golden Stars 3:03
Columbus Stockade Blues/December Days 2000 Country Legends 3:02
Good Hearted Woman 2001 Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:05
Classic Country: 1975-1979 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:20
No Image 2001 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication)
All the Songs I've Loved Before 2001 Columbia 2:20
70's Pop Hits 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:19
Famous Country Music Makers 2001
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
A Year in Your Life: 1970's Country, Vol. 3 2001
Various Artists
Definitive 2:21
Greatest Hits Live in Concert 2002 Brentwood Records 3:07
The Collection: Stardust/One for the Road/Honeysuckle Rose 2002 Columbia 2:47
Old Five Dimers/Super Hits/Old Friends 2002 Sony Music Distribution
Always on My Mind: A Tribute to Elvis Presley 2002
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Fourteen Number One Hits 2002 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / Brentwood Records 2:48
Ultimate Country Super Hits [Sony Box Set] 2002
Various Artists
Immediate / Sony Music Distribution 2:21
On the Road Again [2002] 2002 Goldies 3:03
The Essential Willie Nelson [Columbia] 2003 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment 2:20
Ultimate Legends: Willie Nelson 2003 Madacy 2:19
Keepsakes 2003 Sony Music Distribution 2:19
Always 2003 Sony Music Distribution
No Image 2003 Columbia
Oldies: Forever Young 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:20
Smokin' at the Paradiso: Live in Amsterdam 2004 Sony Music Distribution / CD Baby / CoraZong Records
The Collection [Sony 2004] 2004 Columbia
Willie Nelson and Friends 2004 Direct Source 2:19
Live at Billy Bob's Texas 2004 Smith Entertainment
Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Masters / Double Play Records 2:18
On the Road Again [Delta] 2004 Laserlight 2:59
The Anthology 2004 Master Classics
Oldies But Goodies: 13 of the Best 70's Country 2004
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:20
No Image 2004 Sony Music Distribution 2:47
The  Songs 2005 Lost Highway / Universal 2:21
Classics by Willie Nelson 2005 Curb 2:20
The Country Outlaws [Horizon] 2005
Various Artists
Horizon 3:05
Songs for Tsunami Relief: Austin to South Asia 2005 Lost Highway 3:09
America's Troubadour 2005 American Legends 3:08
Essential Country, Vol. 2: Duets 2005
Various Artists
Mastersong
Texas Troubadours [Capitol] 2005
Various Artists
Liberty / Capitol 2:20
Willie Nelson: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain/Willie & Friends/Crazy 2005 Direct Source 2:19
Superstars of Country: Easy Loving 2005
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:20
That's Country: Legends 2006
Various Artists
KRB Music 2:18
Country Fame Legends 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:19
Hall of Fame 2006 Laserlight 3:02
Country Hit Parade: Country Legends 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:20
Always on My Mind: The Best of Willie Nelson 2006 Prism Leisure Corporation (UK) / Prism Entertainment / Prism Platinum 2:59
The Collection [Madacy] 2006 Madacy 2:19
Best of Willie Nelson [Direct Source] 2006 Direct Source 2:20
Legends of Country Music [Direct Source] 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:19
#1 Super Country 70's Hits 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 2:19
Always on My Mind [Horizon] 2006 Horizon
Country Hitmakers/Greatest Country 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:20
Willie Nelson [Madacy 3 Disc] 2006 Madacy 2:19
Lifetime of Country Romance: Always on My Mind 2006
Various Artists
Life / Time 2:20
Country Legends: 18 Greatest 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:20
Beginner's Guide to Country 2007
Various Artists
Nascente 2:20
Country Roads 2007 Country Roads 2:21
The Essential Guide to Country [Essential Guide] 2007
Various Artists
Essential Guide 2:21
20 Hits 2007 Kings Road 2:21
Superstars of Country [Time Life] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:20
The Outlaws: Country Roads 2007
Various Artists
KRB Music 2:18
Pure 2007 Direct Source 2:20
The Life and Times of Willie Nelson 2007 Immortal 3:03
Country Top Hits of the 70's 2007
Various Artists
Collectables 2:20
Grammy Awards: 50th Anniversary Collection 2008
Various Artists
Shout! Factory
Music of Your Life: Best of Willie Nelson 2008 TGG Direct / Diamond Recordings 3:09
Red Headed Stranger/To Lefty from Willie 2008 Columbia/Legacy 2:21
One Hell of a Ride [Box Set] 2008 Columbia/Legacy 2:21
Playlist: The Very Best of Willie Nelson 2008 BMG / Sony Music
Legend: The Best of Willie Nelson 2008 Sony Music Distribution 2:22
Country's 20 Classic Songs of the Century 2008
Various Artists
New Haven / Provident Music 2:21
Red Headed Stranger/To Lefty from Willie 2008 RCA
Legends of Country Music [Music Digital] 2008
Various Artists
Delta Distribution / Music Digital 3:03
Vintage Country: The Golden Age of Country Music 2008
Various Artists
Hear Music / Sony BMG 2:19
Country Greats [Delta] 2009
Various Artists
Delta Distribution 3:02
Souvenirs 2009 Fuel 2000 2:48
The Music of Willie Nelson 2009 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:20
Hits of the 70s [Delta] 2009
Various Artists
Delta Music Group 3:03
Original Album Classics [Box Set] 2010 Sony Music 2:21
Setlist: The Very Best of Willie Nelson Live 2010 Columbia / Legacy 2:48
Country's Got Heart: Together Again 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:20
Country's Got Heart [Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:20
Original Album Classics 2011 Columbia / Sony Legacy 2:48
On the Road Again: Live on Air 2012 Blueline / IMV / IMV Blueline / XXL Media 2:49
Live! At the U.S. Festival 1983 2012 Shout! Factory 2:40
Heroes of the Big Country: Willie Nelson 2012 DLG Digital 3:02
Country: Willie Nelson 2012 BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 2:20
Legends of Country 2013
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:20
The Box Set Series 2014 Legacy 2:20
The Box Set Series: Country Hits of the '60s & '70s 2014
Various Artists
Legacy 2:19
Natural Renegade: Opus Collection 2014 DV&A / Starbucks
100 Hits: Country Greats 2014
Various Artists
100 Hits 2:48
Truckers, Kickers, Cowboys Angels: The Blissed-Out Birth of Country-Rock , Vol. 7: 1974 2015
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:18
New Year's Eve in Houston, 1984 2016 Golden Rain 2:49
Always on My Mind: The Best of Willie Nelson in Concert Castle Music Ltd. 2:59
No Image
Various Artists
Pickwick
No Image
Various Artists
Pickwick
Country Hits, Vol. 11 [Country Legacy Hits]
Various Artists
Country Legacy Hits 3:02
Country Legends [Sony 2013]
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:20
No Image
Live from Austin, TX [Video] New West
Pure... Acoustic
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:19
The Perfect Country Collection
Various Artists
Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment
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