When You Say Nothing at All: Wikis


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"When You Say Nothing at All"
Single by Keith Whitley
from the album Don't Close Your Eyes
B-side "Lucky Dog"
Released September 1988
Format 7" vinyl single
Recorded 1988
Genre Country
Length 3:40
Label RCA
Writer(s) Paul Overstreet, Don Schlitz
Producer Garth Fundis, Keith Whitley
Keith Whitley singles chronology
"Don't Close Your Eyes"
"When You Say Nothing at All"
"I'm No Stranger to the Rain"

"When You Say Nothing at All" is a country song written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. It is among the best-known hit songs for three different performers: Keith Whitley, who took it to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart on December 24, 1988; Alison Krauss, whose version became her first solo top-10 country hit in 1995; and Irish pop singer Ronan Keating, whose version was his first solo single and a chart-topper in the UK in 1999.



Overstreet and Schlitz came up with "When You Say Nothing at All" at the end of an otherwise unproductive day. Strumming a guitar, trying to write their next song, they were coming up empty. "As we tried to find another way to say nothing, we came up with the song," Overstreet later told author Ace Collins. They thought the song was OK, but nothing special.[1]

When Keith Whitley heard it, he loved it, and was not going to let it get away.[1] Earlier, he had recorded another Overstreet-Schlitz composition that became a No. 1 hit for another artist - Randy Travis' "On the Other Hand." Whitley did not plan to let "When You Say Nothing at All" meet the same fate.[1][2]

The versions


Keith Whitley

RCA released "When You Say Nothing at All" as the follow-up single to the title song of Whitley's Don't Close Your Eyes album. The former song already had hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, his first chart-topper after three prior singles made the top 10.[3] "When You Say Nothing at All" entered the Hot Country Singles chart on September 17, 1988, at No. 61, and gradually rose to the top, where it stayed for two weeks at the end of the year.[1][2]

It was the second of five consecutive chart-topping singles for Whitley, who did not live to see the last two, as he died on May 9, 1989 of alcohol poisoning.[3]

"Keith did a great job singin' that song," co-composer Schlitz told author Tom Roland. "He truly sang it from the heart."[2]

In 2004, Whitley's original was ranked 12th among CMT's 100 Greatest Love Songs.[4] It was sung by Sara Evans on the show.

Alison Krauss

Krauss, already a veteran bluegrass fiddler and vocalist at age 23, recorded "When You Say Nothing at All" with her group, Union Station, in 1994 for a tribute album to Whitley. After the song began to receive unsolicited airplay, BNA Records, the label that had released the album, issued Krauss' version to radio in January 1995.[5]

That version, also featured on Krauss' compilation Now That I've Found You: A Collection, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, and a commercial single reached No. 2 on the same magazine's Hot Country Singles Sales chart.[3] Its success, as well as that of the album, caught Krauss by surprise. "It's a freak thing," she told a Los Angeles Times reporter in March 1995. "It's kinda ticklin' us all. We haven't had anything really chart before. At all. Isn't it funny though? We don't know what's goin' on....The office said, 'Hey, it's charting,' and we're like, 'Huh?'"[6]

While Krauss' version was on the charts, Mike Cromwell, then the production director at WMIL-FM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, concocted a duet merging elements of Krauss' version with Whitley's original hit version. The "duet" garnered national attention, and it spread from at least Philadelphia to Albuquerque.[7] It was never officially serviced to radio and has never been available commercially.

Krauss' recording won the 1995 CMA award for "Single of the Year".

Ronan Keating

"When You Say Nothing at All"
Single by Ronan Keating
from the album Ronan and Notting Hill
Released July 26, 1999
Format CD single, cassette single
Recorded 1999
Genre Pop
Length 4:18
Label Polydor
Producer Ronan Keating
Certification Platinum (ARIA)
Ronan Keating singles chronology
- "When You Say Nothing at All"
"Life Is a Rollercoaster"

"When You Say Nothing at All" was Keating's first solo single outside the confines of popular Irish group Boyzone. He recorded it in 1999 for the soundtrack of the film Notting Hill. The song would also appear on Keating's solo debut album Ronan the following year.

Keating's version of "When You Say Nothing at All" was released as a single in the third quarter of 1999 and reached number one on the UK chart. It also reached the top position in Ireland. In the UK, the single was certified gold.

In 2002, he re-recorded the single as a duet with Italian-Brazilian singer Deborah Blando.

In 2003, he re-recorded the single as a duet with Mexican singer Paulina Rubio, which was released in Mexico and Latin America to promote "Destination".

Chart positions

Keith Whitley

Chart (1988) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1

Alison Krauss & Union Station

Chart (1995) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks 3
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 53
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 7

Ronan Keating

Chart (1999) Peak
Irish Singles Chart 1
Italian Singles Chart 1
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 2
Australia ARIA Singles Chart 3
Swiss Singles Chart 4
Belgium Flemish Singles Chart 3

Track listings

Keith Whitley US 7" and cassette single RCA 8637-7-R, 1988

  1. "When You Say Nothing at All"
  2. "Lucky Dog"

Alison Krauss US 7" single BNA 64277, 1995

  1. "When You Say Nothing at All"
  2. "Charlotte's in North Carolina" (by Keith Whitley)

Ronan Keating UK CD single #1 Polydor 561 291-2, 1999

  1. "When You Say Nothing at All"
  2. "At the End of a Perfect Day"
  3. "I Will Miss You"

Ronan Keating UK CD single #2 Polydor 561 290-2, 1999

  1. "When You Say Nothing at All"
  2. "When You Say Nothing at All" (Acoustic Version)
  3. "This Is Your Song"
  4. "When You Say Nothing at All" (Video)


  1. ^ a b c d Collins, Ace (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music's All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York: Boulevard. p. 268. ISBN 1-57297-072-3.  
  2. ^ a b c Roland, Tom (1991). The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits. New York: Billboard. p. 539. ISBN 0-8230-7553-2.  
  3. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (2005). Top Country Songs 1944-2005. Menomonee Falls, Wis.: Record Research. p. 416. ISBN 0-89820-165-9.  
  4. ^ CMT. "100 Greatest Love Songs". http://www.cmt.com/shows/dyn/greatest_series/81730/episode_countdown.jhtml. Retrieved 2007-05-22.  
  5. ^ Horak, Terri (1995-01-21). "Rounder Goes All Out for Grammy-Nominated Krauss". Billboard.   Accessed via ProQuest.
  6. ^ Cromelin, Richard (1995-03-25). "A Hit from Country's Kinfolk / Bluegrass's most prominent figure makes her way into country music's Top 10. Even Alison Krauss can't explain it.". Los Angeles Times. p. F1.   Accessed via ProQuest.
  7. ^ Cave, Kathy (1995-05-05). "Whitley, Krauss blend grabs national attention". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. B8.   Accessed via ProQuest.
Preceded by
"A Tender Lie"
by Restless Heart
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single (Keith Whitley)

December 24—December 31, 1988
Succeeded by
"Hold Me"
by K.T. Oslin
Preceded by
"Livin' la Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin
UK Singles Chart number one single (Ronan Keating)
August 1—August 8, 1999
Succeeded by
"If I Let You Go" by Westlife


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