Keith Whitley released “Don’t Close Your Eyes” as the third single of his album of the same name in 1988. It shot straight to No. 1 on the country charts, while peaking at No. 2 in Canada. It also became Billboard’s No. 1 country Single of The Year.

Written by Bob McDill, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” tells the tale of a man in love with a woman who is still trapped in the memories of her past relationship, escaping into thoughts of him every time she closes her eyes.

“Don’t close your eyes. Let it be me. Don’t pretend it’s him, in some fantasy. Darling, just once, let yesterday go. And you’ll find more love than you’ll ever know. Just hold me tight when you love me tonight. And don’t close your eyes,” the man begs her.

Alan Jackson has since covered the heartbreaking love ballad for Keith Whitley’s 1995 tribute album, as well as by Kellie Pickler for the deluxe edition of her 2008 self-titled second album.

From Bluegrass To Country Music Superstar

From the moment Keith Whitley embarked on a music career, success followed closely behind. The Kentucky-born singer actually got his start in bluegrass music. Whitley played in a band called the East Kentucky Mountain Boys with Opry legend Ricky Skaggs before both were discovered by Ralph Stanley and invited to join his Clinch Mountain Boys in 1970.

After a years-long career in the bluegrass genre, Whitley moved to Nashville in 1983 to pursue a country music career where he had gained the legendary status and had charted 19 singles on the Billboard country charts. 

With songs like “When You Say Nothing At All,” “No Stranger In The Rain,” “Miami, My Amy,” and “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” it was clear that Whitley was in a league of his own. There hadn’t been a singer who could portray emotions as he could.

However, Whitley had his fair share of demons, and that ultimately took his life in 1989 – dying from alcohol poisoning at only 33 years old. Five of Whitley’s first solo singles would top the charts, but he would only live to see three of them go to the top.

Keith Whitley’s life may have been taken away much earlier, yet his music and spirit are alive and well, living in the hearts and lives of fans that cling dearly to this star’s timeless talent. You can watch his breathtaking performance of the heartbreaking ballad in the video below.