Freddy Fender is a celebrated Texas hometown hero, and he struck gold with his 1975 country-pop hit “Before The Next Teardrop Falls.”
When the song was released to country radio in January 1975, it immediately took off in popularity. It ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in just a few months and spent two weeks atop the chart. Subsequently, “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” solidly caught the Top 40 radio stations, and it was just not long before Fender had a No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit too. Billboard also ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1975.
A Heartbroken Man’s Pure Sentiment
Written by Vivian Keith and Ben Peters in 1967, “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” is one of those breakup songs where the woman has moved on, but the man is having a hard time accepting that it’s over. Though he did not want to say goodbye to this woman, he knew he had to. So he offered her whatever support he can muster.
“If he brings you happiness. Then I wish you all the best. It’s your happiness that matters most of all. But if he ever breaks your heart. If the teardrops ever start. I’ll be there before the next teardrop falls,” the song goes.
“Before The Next Teardrop Falls” was originally released by Duane Dee in 1968 and was a minor country hit, reaching No. 44 on the Billboard country chart. Over the next decade, the song was covered by many artists – but it was most famously covered by Freddy Fender.
In 1974, record producer Huey P. Meaux approached singer Freddy Fender about overdubbing vocals for an instrumental track to which Fender agreed. He performed the song in a bilingual style—singing the first half of the song in English, then repeating that part in Spanish.
“The recording only took a few minutes,” Fender once said in an interview. “I was glad to get it over with, and I thought that would be the last of it.”
A showcase of Fender’s tenor, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” jump-started his career, which had stalled in 1960. Fender was already in his late 30s and had been out of the Texas music scene for over a decade after being arrested on drug charges. As Tom Breihan put it in his column for Stereogum, Freddy Fender “wasn’t supposed to get a second chance.”
Tom Breihan is a writer and editor for Sterogum.com. He has been working on a project titled The Number Ones wherein he reviews a No. 1 hit from Billboard’s Hot 100 chart each day, hoping to eventually work his way through the entire history of Billboard’s No. 1 hits. Breihan reviewed “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and gave the song his highest rating.
“There are a lot of reasons why ‘Before The Next Teardrop Falls’ might’ve connected the way it did. Fender guessed that it might’ve had something to do with the way he sang — a high, tender tenor with no Southern twang. Fender figured that he didn’t have a country voice, so maybe that’s why the song crossed over outside the country audience,” Breihan said.
“But I have my own theory as to why ‘Before The Next Teardrop Falls’ resonated the way it did. I think so many people liked it because it’s a masterpiece.”
In the months and years that followed, Freddy Fender recorded several bilingual standards, which became major hits. Fender also has recorded a version of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” entirely in Spanish, called “Estaré contigo cuando triste estés,” which literally means “I will be with you when you are sad.”
Tune in below for Freddy Fender’s heart-wrenching performance of “Before The Next Teardrop Falls.”