I Fall to Pieces

"I Fall to Pieces" is a single released by Patsy Cline in 1961, and was featured on her 1961 studio album, Showcase. Written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard, "I Fall to Pieces" was Cline's first number-one 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 written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard (not always collaborating) for Cline.

"I Fall to Pieces"
Patsy Cline - I Fall to Pieces.jpg
Single by Patsy Cline
from the album Showcase
B-side"Lovin' in Vain"
ReleasedJanuary 30, 1961
RecordedNovember 16, 1960
Decca Records Nashville
GenreCountry, traditional pop
Songwriter(s)Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard
Producer(s)Owen Bradley
Patsy Cline singles chronology
"Crazy Dreams"
"I Fall to Pieces"

"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 recordingEdit

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 with Howard at his house the next day, where they finished writing the song. The demonstration version of the song was recorded at Pamper Music in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, by Howard's wife, 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 was 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.[1]

However, when Cline began recording the song a few weeks later in November 1960, she had second thoughts about it, 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, according to Jordanaire member Gordon Stoker.[2] Cline also felt that the Pop ballad style Bradley wanted it recorded in did not 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 could not 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. Lynn later released a re-recording of the cover on April 3, 2020.

But Patsy was not the only one having problems at the session. Composer Harlan Howard relates,

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, Patsy realized that Bradley was right about the torch songs and she ended up liking the track, stating that she finally found her own identity.[1] Subsequently, The Jordanaires became fast friends and part of Patsy's inner circle.

Structure and lyricsEdit

"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 opening of the song sets up its entire story:

"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 and Country. However, Pamper Music promotion man Hal Smith had faith in the two songwriters and hired road man 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 DJs that Cline 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 distributors 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 ever seen.[1] By August 1961, "I Fall to Pieces" peaked at number one on the Billboard Country chart[3] and reached number 12 on the Billboard Pop chart. The song was also one of the slowest chart descenders, as well.

It was one of several Country-Pop crossover hits that Cline had over the next few years.[4] As a result, Cline was able to prove that a solo female artist could have major hits on both the Country and 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.[5] In gratitude, she bought and had engraved a bracelet 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.

"I Fall to Pieces", together with "Never No More", was featured in episode 14 of Space: Above and Beyond - "Never No More, Part 1".

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, its popularity began to decrease.[6] 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 1960s.[7] In addition, the track was also ranked number two of the top 100 songs of 1961, right behind Bobby Lewis's "Tossin' and Turnin'".[8] But this should be regarded as suspect as the single only peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1980, Cline'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 rearranged and overdubbed songs, the song even charted among the Billboard Country chart that year, peaking at number 61. Two years later, a duet of the song featuring deceased country star Jim Reeves was electronically reassembled from master tape elements and released, and it charted at number 54 on the Billboard Country chart.

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 number 72 with a two-week run. In addition, it won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.[9]

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked "I Fall to Pieces" at number 238 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[10]

The song was also ranked at number seven on CMT's television special of the 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music. Another Patsy Cline song, "Crazy", was ranked four positions higher at number three on the countdown.[11] It was also ranked at number 107 on RIAA's list of the Songs of the Century.

In 2014, Rolling Stone named the song number 40 on its "40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time".[12]

Chart performanceEdit

Chart (1961) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot C&W Sides 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 12
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening 6


  1. ^ a b c 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.
  2. ^ Kosser, Michael (2006). "6 - Oohs and Ahs". How Nashville Became Music City, U.S.A.. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 45.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 83.
  4. ^ Unterberger, Ritchie. "Patsy Cline biography". allmusic. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Wolff, Kurt (2000). Orla Duane (ed.). Country Music: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides Ltd. pp. 302–303.
  7. ^ Stone, Calen D. "Patsy Cline Biography". Musician Guide.com. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  8. ^ "Godadida.com homepage". Godadida.com. Archived from the original on 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 297. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.
  10. ^ "Rollin Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone.com. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  11. ^ "The 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music". CMT.com. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  12. ^ Kreps, Daniel; Menoci, David; Ryan, Linda; Harvilla, Rob; Murray, Nick; Drell, Cady; Powell, Mike; Moss, Marissa R; Harris, Keith; Fisher, Reed (September 26, 2014). "40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone.

External linksEdit