Who Was the First to Sing “When You Say Nothing At All”?

Video who sang when you say nothing at all first

“When You Say Nothing at All” is a timeless country song that has resonated with audiences for decades. This heartfelt ballad was written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, the talented songwriters behind Randy Travis’ No. 1 hit “Forever and Ever, Amen.” Interestingly, it became a hit for three different musicians in the ’80s and ’90s.

Keith Whitley: The Original Version

Keith Whitley, a country singer with a soulful voice, was the first to turn this song into a country hit. Released in 1988, this heartfelt ballad marked Whitley’s first number one hit and is still considered one of his greatest achievements. In fact, in 2004, CMT recognized his version as one of the “100 Greatest Love Songs” of all time.

Alison Krauss: A Bluegrass Tribute

Following Keith Whitley’s rendition, bluegrass superstar Alison Krauss and her band Union Station covered the song. Their version was included in a compilation tribute album titled “Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album” as a way to honor the late artist, who tragically passed away from alcohol poisoning in 1989. Krauss’ cover unexpectedly gained popularity, leading her label, BNA Records, to officially release it as a radio single in 1995. The song climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart, and Krauss even won the prestigious 1995 CMA award for “Single of the Year.”

Ronan Keating: A Modern Take

In 1999, Irish singer-songwriter and former Boyzone member Ronan Keating released his own rendition of “When You Say Nothing at All.” The song served as the debut single for the soundtrack of the beloved film “Notting Hill,” starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Keating’s version soared to the top of the charts in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, even featuring scenes from the film in its music video.

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So, which version do you prefer? The classic country interpretations by Krauss and Whitley, or the modern cover by Ronan Keating?

“When You Say Nothing At All” Lyrics:

It’s astonishing how you can speak directly to my heart
Without uttering a single word, you illuminate the darkest corners
No matter how hard I try, I could never articulate the emotions evoked by your silence
The smile on your face reassures me of your need for me
Your eyes convey a truth that promises eternal loyalty
The touch of your hand assures me that you’ll be there to catch me if I stumble
Truly, you speak most eloquently when you choose to say nothing at all

Throughout the day, I’m bombarded by the clamor of people’s voices
Yet, when you embrace me, their noise fades away
The dictionary could never capture the profound connection between our hearts
that transcends mere words

The smile on your face reassures me of your need for me
Your eyes convey a truth that promises eternal loyalty
The touch of your hand assures me that you’ll be there to catch me if I stumble
Truly, you speak most eloquently when you choose to say nothing at all

The smile on your face reassures me of your need for me
Your eyes convey a truth that promises eternal loyalty
The touch of your hand assures me that you’ll be there to catch me if I stumble
Truly, you speak most eloquently when you choose to say nothing at all

Editor’s Note: Products featured on Wide Open Country are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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This article was previously published in April of 2021.

READ MORE: Rooted in Country: Dalton Dover on Keith Whitley’s ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’

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