When You Say Nothing at All

When You Say Nothing at All

Infobox Single
Name = When You Say Nothing at All

Artist = Keith Whitley
from 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 = Paul Overstreet, Don Schlitz
Producer = Garth Fundis and Keith Whitley
Last single = "Don't Close Your Eyes"
This single = "When You Say Nothing at All"
Next single = "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.cite book |last=Collins |first=Ace |title=The Stories Behind Country Music's All-Time Greatest 100 Songs |publisher=Boulevard |date=1996 |location=New York |pages=268 |isbn=1-57297-072-3]

When Keith Whitley heard it, he loved it, and was not going to let it get away. 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.cite book |last=Roland |first=Tom |title=The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits |publisher=Billboard |date=1991 |location=New York |pages=539 |isbn=0-8230-7553-2]

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.cite book |last=Whitburn |first= Joel |title=Top Country Songs 1944-2005 |publisher=Record Research |date=2005 |location=Menomonee Falls, Wis. |pages=416 |isbn=0-89820-165-9] "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.

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.

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

In 2004, Whitley's original was ranked 12th among CMT's "100 Greatest Love Songs". [cite web |last=CMT |authorlink=CMT |title=100 Greatest Love Songs |url=http://www.cmt.com/shows/dyn/greatest_series/81730/episode_countdown.jhtml |accessdate=2007-05-22 ] 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. [cite news |last=Horak |first=Terri |title=Rounder Goes All Out for Grammy-Nominated Krauss |publisher=Billboard |date=1995-01-21 Accessed via ProQuest.]

That version, also featured on Krauss' compilation "", 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. 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?'" [cite news |last=Cromelin |first=Richard |title=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. |page=F1 |publisher=Los Angeles Times |date=1995-03-25 Accessed via ProQuest.]

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. [cite news |last=Cave |first=Kathy |title=Whitley, Krauss blend grabs national attention |page=B8 |publisher=Milwaukee Journal Sentinel |date=1995-05-05 Accessed via ProQuest.] 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

Infobox Single
Name = When You Say Nothing at All

Artist = Ronan Keating
from Album = Ronan
Released = July 26 1999
Format = CD single, cassette single
Recorded = 1999
Genre = Pop
Length = 4:18
Label = Polydor
Producer = Ronan Keating
Last single = -
This single = "When You Say Nothing at All"
Next single = "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 2003, he re-recorded the single as a duet with Mexican singer Paulina Rubio, which was released in Mexico and Latin America to promote a hits compilation.

Chart positions

Keith Whitley

Other versions

Steven McLachlan, a Scottish singer, recorded "When You Say Nothing at All" in 2003. As a digital download, it stayed at No. 1 on the Australian Country-Pop Digital Charts for six months.

Among others who have recorded the song:
*Keahiwai - 2001
*Ryan & Rachel O'Donnell - 2003
*The Nervous Rex - 2004
*Kathy Phillips - 2006
*Cliff Richard - 2007

Comedy band the Amateur Transplants did a version of this song called "(When You Wear) Nothing At All".

Track listings

Keith Whitley US 7" and cassette singleRCA 8637-7-R, 1988
#"When You Say Nothing at All"
#"Lucky Dog"

Alison Krauss US 7" singleBNA 64277, 1995
#"When You Say Nothing at All"
#"Charlotte's in North Carolina" (by Keith Whitley)

Ronan Keating UK CD single #1Polydor 561 291-2, 1999
# "When You Say Nothing at All"
# "This Is Your Song"
# "At the End of a Perfect Day"
# "I Will Miss You"

Ronan Keating UK CD single #2Polydor 561 290-2, 1999
# "When You Say Nothing at All"
# "When You Say Nothing at All" (Acoustic version)
# "This Is Your Song"
# "When You Say Nothing at All" music video


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