After a successful run in Las Vegas, Patsy Cline returned to Nashville and Owen Bradley’s recording studio for what would be her last sessions. In February 1963 she recorded twelve new tracks, including a cover of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams” and the Bob Wills classic “Faded Love”. She was unusually emotional and wept throughout the session; the emotion can be heard on both of these tracks. Bradley assumed that she’d had an argument with her husband, and when Charlie stopped by to see how things were going, he was quickly ushered out of the studio before Patsy saw him, so as not to break the mood.
“Leavin’ On Your Mind” had been released about a month before Patsy’s final recording sessions, in January 1963. It was the last single released during her lifetime. It reached #8 on the country chart, but unlike most of her previous hits, it was not a crossover success, stalling at #83 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Patsy Cline died on March 5, 1963 when the Piper Comanche aircraft carrying her back to Nashville from a charity concert in Kansas City, Missouri crashed amidst deteriorating weather conditions near Camden, Tennessee. Also on board were Grand Ole Opry stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Patsy’s manager Randy Hughes, who had piloted the plane. There were no survivors. Patsy was interred near her home in Virginia, at the Shenandoah Memorial Park.
Decca continued to release Patsy’s singles and albums in the years following her death. “Sweet Dreams”, her first posthumous release, was a #5 country hit, and despite having been recorded previously by both Faron Young and Don Gibson, it is Patsy’s interpretation that is considered the definitive version. The follow-up single “Faded Love” reached #7 on the charts and was her last solo Top 10 hit. After that, her singles charted lower, if they charted at all. She returned to the Top 5 one final time in 1981, when RCA Records released an electronic duet of Patsy and Jim Reeves singing “Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)”.
In 1967, Decca released Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits, which eventually sold more than 10 million copies. It held the record as the best-selling country album of all-time by a female artist, until the 1990s when it was overtaken by Shania Twain’s The Woman In Me. In 1973, Patsy became the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her name began to fade from the public consciousness, but was brought back to the forefront in 1980 when she was portrayed on the silver screen by actress Beverly D’Angelo in the Loretta Lynn bio-film Coal Miner’s Daughter. Five years later, Hollywood told its version of the Patsy Cline story in the film Sweet Dreams, starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris.
Although her recording career lasted a mere eight years, Patsy Cline cast a long shadow over the country music landscape. Virtually every female country vocalist who has emerged since her death has named Patsy as an influence. Her songs have been covered by such artists as Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes and Sara Evans. Her Greatest Hits still holds the record for the longest run on the Billboard Country Albums chart for an album by a female artist, and she remains a best-selling artist for MCA, the successor company to Decca Records. We hope that you’ll enjoy our coverage as we look back at Patsy’s life and career throughout the month of January.