I Fall to Pieces
|"I Fall to Pieces"|
|Single by Patsy Cline|
|from the album Patsy Cline Showcase|
|B-side||"Lovin' in Vain"|
|Released||January 30, 1961|
|Recorded||November 16, 1960
Decca Records Nashville
|Genre||Country, traditional pop|
|Writer(s)||Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard|
|Patsy Cline singles chronology|
"I Fall to Pieces" is a single released by Patsy Cline in 1961, and was featured on her 1961 studio album, Patsy Cline Showcase. "I Fall to Pieces" was Cline's first #1 hit on the Country charts, and her second hit single to cross over onto the Pop charts. It was the first of a string of songs that would be written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard (not always collaborating) for Cline.
"I Fall to Pieces" became one of Cline's most-recognizable hit singles. It has also been classified as a country music standard.
Writing and recording
Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard met in California, and became songwriting partners. One night, Cochran was mulling over song ideas, when he thought of a title, "I Fall to Pieces." Cochran met up with Howard at his house the next day, where they finished writing the song. The demo version of the song was recorded at Pamper Music in Goodlettsville, Tennessee by Howard's wife and country singer, Jan Howard. Harlan Howard pitched the song to Decca producer, Owen Bradley, who tried to find the right artist to record it. The song was turned down numerous times, first by Brenda Lee, who found the song "too country" for her pop style. Bradley then asked rising country star, Roy Drusky to record it but he turned it down stating that it's not a man's song.
Patsy Cline, was in the hallway and overheard his argument with Bradley and asked if she could record it instead. Bradley then accepted her offer.
However when Cline began recording the song a few weeks later in November of 1960, to say she had second thoughts about it would be putting it mildly, especially after she discovered that popular Nashville background singer group, The Jordanaires would serve as the support vocalists. Cline was afraid the Jordanaires would drown out her sound, and as a result, she was not very friendly upon meeting them for the first time. Cline also felt that the Pop ballad style Bradley wanted it recorded in didn't suit her own style, but Bradley was trying to make the song appeal to the Pop market, an idea that Cline rejected wholeheartedly.
In an interview with Loretta Lynn on her 1977 album I Remember Patsy, Bradley recollected that, for Patsy, if she couldn't yodel or growl on a record, she wanted no part of it. As a result, she had several arguments with Bradley about the lush after-midnight style arrangement, but eventually Cline broke new ground once again, when she recorded it in the new style that Bradley wanted.
But Patsy wasn't the only one having problems at the session. Composer Harlan Howard relates that
On the night of the session, we absolutely did NOT want to do the standard 4:4 shuffle that had by then been done to death. We were trying all kinds of other (basic rhythm) combinations, but they all just laid there and bled all over the floor. So it had to be the shuffle then, like it or not. But the amazing thing was, once Patsy got into the groove, she just caressed those lyrics and that melody so tenderly that it was just like satin. We knew we had magic in the can when, on the fourth take, every grown man in that studio was bawling like a baby and Bradley said `That's the one'.
After listening to the playback afterward however, she realized that Bradley was right about the torch songs and ended up liking the track, stating that she finally found her own identity. Subsequently, the Jordanaires became fast friends and part of Patsy's inner circle.
Structure and lyrics
"I Fall to Pieces" is a country-pop ballad about how a woman's lover doesn't want them to be together, yet the woman can't understand why, explaining that every time he walks by she "falls to pieces." The beginning of the song sets up the entire story of the song:
- "I fall to pieces,
- Each time I see you again
- I fall to pieces
- How can I be just your friend?"
"I Fall to Pieces" was released 30 January 1961, but upon its release, it was virtually ignored by all radio stations, both pop as well as country. However, Pamper Music promotion man Hal Smith had faith in the two songwriters and hired a road man by the name of Pat Nelson to promote the single. Nelson's strategy was to attempt to explain to country DJs that "I Fall to Pieces" was a departure from any of Cline's previous singles, and explain to pop DJ's that Patsy was going to be one of the great new torch singers in the Patti Page or Rosemary Clooney vein.
Soon a Pop radio station in Columbus, Ohio began playing the single and after finding this out, Bradley saw that the song was being fanned by record distibutors across the country so much so that within four months, momentum was building on both the Country and Pop charts.
On April 3, the song debuted on the Billboard Country Chart and began the slowest ascent anybody had ever seen. By August 1961, "I Fall to Pieces" peaked at number one on the Billboard Country Chart and reached number twelve on the Billboard Pop Chart. The song was also one of the slowest chart descenders anybody had ever seen as well.
It would be one of several Country-pop crossover hits that Cline was to have over the next couple of years. As a result, Cline was now able to prove that a solo female artist could have major hits on both the country as well as the pop charts. later that year, she was acclaimed as one of the nation's leading recording artists, along with Jimmy Darren and Bobby Vee. In gratitude, Patsy bought and had engraved a bracelent for Harlan Howard and a money clip for Hank Cochran saying simply Thanks for the Hit - Patsy. For the rest of their lives, it was the only token of appreciation other than a great recording that either composer had ever received from an artist.
However, due to a major car accident in June 1961, Cline was kept in the hospital for two months, which cut into promoting "I Fall to Pieces". Therefore, by the time Cline had left the hospital, "I Fall to Pieces'" popularity began to decrease. The success of the song helped get Cline an invitation to become a regular cast member on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the highest honors that could be bestowed on a country singer in the early `60's. In addition, the track was also ranked #2 out of the Top 100 songs of 1961 right behind Bobby Lewis's "Tossin' and Turnin' ".
In 1980, Patsy's vocal was lifted from the original three-track master tapes, flown over to a digital multitrack and overdubbed with a new arrangement featuring new instrumentation and new female background vocalists. Released on a Patsy Cline compilation album, Always featuring other re-arranged and overdubbed songs, the song even charted among the Billboard Country Chart that year, peaking at #61. Two years later, a duet of the song featuring deceased country star, Jim Reeves was electronically re-assembled from master tape elements, released and charted at #54 on the Billboard Country Chart.
The song was also ranked at #7 on CMT's television special of the 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music. Another Patsy Cline song, Crazy was ranked four positions higher at #3 on the countdown. It was also ranked at #107 on RIAA's list of the Songs of the Century.
|U.S. Billboard Hot C&W Sides||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||12|
|U.S. Billboard Easy Listening||6|
Uses in other media
by Kitty Wells
|Billboard Hot C&W Sides
August 7-August 14, 1961
by George Jones
"Please Help Me, I'm Falling"
by Hank Locklin
|Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single of the year
by Claude King
- Country star `Gentleman' Jim Reeves also recorded the song in 1961. In 1980, producers Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley lifted their isolated vocal performances off their original stereo tapes, resynchronized them and re-recorded new digital backing tracks for this song as well as Have You Ever Been Lonely? Both posthumous electronic singles charted in the Billboard Top Ten in the spring of 1981.
- Australian singer and actress Patsy Ann Noble recorded the song in 1962.
- Diana Trask recorded the song in 1969 on the album From the Heart. Her version went to #37 on the country music charts.
- Linda Ronstadt recorded the song for her eponymous album in 1971.
- Michael Nesmith and the First National Band covered the song on the 1970 album Loose Salute.
- Jazz guitarist Marc Ribot covered the song on the 1992 live album Yo! I Killed Your God.
- Crystal Gayle included the song on her 1993 album Best Always
- Aaron Neville and Trisha Yearwood covered the song on the 1994 album Rhythm, Country and Blues. This version also made the country charts, peaking at #72 with a two-week run. In addition, it won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
- Punk band Screeching Weasel covered the song on their 1995 album Kill the Musicians.
- A version of the song is performed by the band Attention Earth during the end credits for the movie Phantoms (1998).
- It was recorded by The Czars and appears on their 2006 compilation album Sorry I Made You Cry. The album also features a version of another Cline standard, "Leavin' on Your Mind".
- Crispian St. Peters released a cover version that can be found on his Anthology CD.
- Greg Kihn Band covered the song in 1983 for their album Kihnspiracy
- Jamey Johnson renders a version on the 2012 album Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran. The cut features Merle Haggard.
- Nassour, Ellis (1993). "Side 3 - That's How a Heartache Begins". Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline 2. New York, New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 132–140.
- Kosser, Michael (2006). "6 - Oohs and Ahs". How Nashville Became Music City, U.S.A. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 45.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 83.
- Unterberger, Ritchie. "Patsy Cline biography". allmusic. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Nassour, Ellis (1993). "Side 4 - Gotta Lot of Rhythm in My Soul". Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline 2. New York, New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 162.
- Wolff, Kurt (2000). Orla Duane, ed. Country Music: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides Ltd. pp. 302–303.
- Stone, Calen D. "Patsy Cline Biography". Musician Guide.com. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- "Rollin Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone.com. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- "The 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music". CMT.com. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 297. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.