Don't Close Your Eyes

Album: Don't Close Your Eyes (1988)
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Songfacts®:

  • In his first #1 Country hit, Keith Whitley suspects his girlfriend is fantasizing about an old flame while they're being intimate, so he tells her, "When you hold me tonight, don't close your eyes."

    Country songwriter Bob McDill, who penned hits for Crystal Gayle, Bobby Bare, and Juice Newton, got the idea from a 1978 Neil Simon movie. "It came from a scene in California Suite," McDill explained in The Billboard Book Of Number One Country Hits, "when Maggie Smith, the English actress - her longtime lover is gay, but they've gone to California. She's nominated for an Oscar. He's gay, she's very lonely and afraid, and in one scene, she knows that he has homosexual lovers, and she fears that he sometimes makes love to her and dreams about homosexual lovers. So she says to him, 'Tonight, don't close your eyes.'

    I thought, 'Gee, wow, great.' Of course, five years later, that comes to fruition. It's a slow business."
  • This is the title track from Whitley's second studio album - a follow-up to 1985 debut, L.A. To Miami, which featured the Top 20 hit "Miami, My Amy" - but it wasn't even on the first iteration of the album.

    He recorded the first version with his L.A. To Miami producer, Blake Mevis, but wasn't happy with the results and shelved the project. RCA agreed to let Whitley co-produce a new album with a different producer. When Garth Fundis sent him a tape featuring McDill's ballad, it sealed the deal for their collaboration.

    (A few years later, Fundis produced Trisha Yearwood's self-titled debut album, featuring the hit "She's In Love With the Boy.")
  • Prior to releasing Don't Close Your Eyes, Whitley noticed that there was something lost in translation between his studio recordings and his live performances.

    "A very important part of Keith Whitley was not comin' across on the records," the singer noted in The Billboard Book Of Number One Country Hits. "My fans would say, 'We love your records, but you're so much better live.' So that's one of the first things that I told Garth when we started workin' together - that there was somethin' that came across in my live shows that had not been captured on record."

    As a result of the disconnect, Whitley changed his recording style and delivered most of the album's tracks on the first take, which captured the same spark of his live performances.
  • The album yielded two more #1 hits on the Country chart: "When You Say Nothing At All" and "I'm No Stranger To The Rain."
  • In 2015, Kxng Crooked of the hip-hop supergroup Slaughterhouse, released a rap remix titled "Don't Close Your Eyes (Ashamed)," to honor the late singer on what would have been his 60th birthday. Whitley was working on his third studio album, I Wonder Do You Think Of Me, when he unexpectedly died of alcohol poisoning less than two months before turning 35.

    The remix's producer, Jonathan Hay, spoke with Billboard about the rap remake. "I feel the rap verses really capture the emotional torment of the original," he said. "As you may or may not know, Keith Whitley died from alcoholism - Kxng Crooked talks about his own chilling battle with alcoholism in his verse."

    The producer also felt connected to Whitley because they shared a home state. He continued: "One of the main reasons I wanted to do this tribute is because I was raised in Kentucky, just like Keith Whitley. Being all over the United States, it seems Whitley is more iconic back home in the 'Bluegrass State' then he is everywhere else. We want to change that."
  • Alan Jackson recorded this for Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album, a 1994 compilation featuring several artists' renditions of Whitley's songs, along with four previously unreleased tracks performed by the late singer.

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