Musicheads Essential Artists: Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline
For paving the way for women in country music and beyond, Patsy Cline is a Musicheads Essential Artist (Courtesy of the artist / MPR graphic)

Each day during Minnesota Public Radio's Spring Member Drive, The Current will highlight a different artist who has made a significant contribution to the music world and a lasting impression on the music we listen to today. We call them Musicheads Essential Artists.

Patsy Cline's star burned brightly for a very few years, but it's a testament to her extraordinarily expressive voice—and a trio of indelible songs—that she is a Musicheads Essential Artist 52 years after her death at the age of 30. But hers was not an overnight success. After a decade or so working her way up the circuit and a few singles that went nowhere, in 1957 Cline broke through with the bittersweet "Walkin' After Midnight," which hit No. 2 on the country chart and crossed over to the pop side (peaking at No. 12). A dozen middling singles were released until Cline's legacy was secured with her two heartbreaking 1961 classics: "I Fall To Pieces" and "Crazy" (written by legend-to-be Willie Nelson). Her stature fueled Cline's influence behind the scenes, where she was a trailblazer whose no-nonsense business approach and buoyant personality kicked open the door of Nashville's boys' club (she was an early booster of Loretta Lynn and Barbara Mandrell). But Cline's career was touched by tragedy: in 1961 she was in a serious car accident which resulted in a month-long hospital stay; and on March 5, 1963, she died in a plane crash in Tennessee. Her voice was stilled much too soon, yet Patsy's songs and spirit live on. – Lou Papineau, Minnesota Public Radio member

Fun fact: Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley; in 1955, her manager derived her stage name from her middle name (which was her mother's maiden name) and her then-husband's surname.

Essential album: Patsy Cline: The Definitive Collection

Essential tracks: See above; plus "She's Got You," "Leavin' On Your Mind," "Sweet Dreams"

The Current's Jill Riley on Patsy Cline:

Musicheads Essential Artists

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