When You Say Nothing at All

"When You Say Nothing at All"
Single by Keith Whitley
from the album Don't Close Your Eyes
B-side "Lucky Dog"
Released August 1988
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 1988
Genre Country
Length 3:40
Label RCA Nashville
Producer(s) Garth Fundis, Keith Whitley
Keith Whitley singles chronology
"Don't Close Your Eyes"
"When You Say Nothing at All"
"I'm No Stranger to the Rain"

"When You Say Nothing at All" is a country song written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. It is among the best-known hit songs for three different performers: Keith Whitley, who took it to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart on December 24, 1988; Alison Krauss, whose version was her first solo top-10 country hit in 1995; and Irish pop singer Ronan Keating, whose version was his first solo single and a chart-topper in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1999.


Overstreet and Schlitz came up with "When You Say Nothing at All" at the end of an otherwise unproductive day. Strumming a guitar, trying to write their next song, they were coming up empty. "As we tried to find another way to say nothing, we came up with the song," Overstreet later told author Ace Collins. They thought the song was OK, but nothing special.[1] When Keith Whitley heard it, he loved it, and was not going to let it get away.[1] Earlier, he had recorded another Overstreet-Schlitz composition that became a No. 1 hit for another artist - Randy Travis' "On the Other Hand." Whitley did not plan to let "When You Say Nothing at All" meet the same fate.[1][2]

Keith Whitley

RCA released "When You Say Nothing at All" as the follow-up single to the title song of Whitley's Don't Close Your Eyes album. The former song already had hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, his first chart-topper after three prior singles made the top 10.[3] "When You Say Nothing at All" entered the Hot Country Singles chart on September 17, 1988, at No. 61, and gradually rose to the top, where it stayed for two weeks at the end of the year.[1][2] It was the second of five consecutive chart-topping singles for Whitley, who did not live to see the last two, as he died on May 9, 1989 of alcohol poisoning.[3] "Keith did a great job singin' that song," co-composer Schlitz told author Tom Roland. "He truly sang it from the heart."[2] In 2004, Whitley's original was ranked 12th among CMT's 100 Greatest Love Songs.[4] It was sung by Sara Evans on the show. As of February 2015, the song has sold 599,000 digital copies in the US after it became available for download.[5]

Chart performance

Chart (1988) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[6] 1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1

Alison Krauss version

"When You Say Nothing at All"
Single by Alison Krauss & Union Station
from the album Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album & Now That I've Found You: A Collection
B-side "Charlotte's in North Carolina" by Keith Whitley
Released 1995
Format 7" vinyl single
Genre Country
Length 4:20
Label BNA
Producer(s) Randy Scruggs
Alison Krauss & Union Station singles chronology
"Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart"
"When You Say Nothing at All"
"Baby Now That I've Found You"

Alison Krauss, already a veteran bluegrass fiddler and vocalist at age 23, recorded "When You Say Nothing at All" with her country group, Union Station, in 1994 for a tribute album to Whitley titled Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album. The single release featured "Charlotte's in North Carolina," one of several previously-unreleased tracks sung by Whitley on the album, as the B-side. After Krauss's cover began to receive unsolicited airplay, BNA Records, the label that had released the album, issued Krauss' version to radio in January 1995.[7] That version, also featured on Krauss' compilation Now That I've Found You: A Collection, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, and a commercial single reached No. 2 on the same magazine's Hot Country Singles Sales chart.[3] The single's B-side was a previously unreleased Whitley song titled "Charlotte's in North Carolina", which also appeared on the tribute album.

Its success, as well as that of the album, caught Krauss by surprise. "It's a freak thing," she told a Los Angeles Times reporter in March 1995. "It's kinda ticklin' us all. We haven't had anything really chart before. At all. Isn't it funny though? We don't know what's goin' on....The office said, 'Hey, it's charting,' and we're like, 'Huh?'"[8]

While Krauss' version was on the charts, Mike Cromwell, then the production director at WMIL-FM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, concocted a duet merging elements of Krauss' version with Whitley's original hit version. The "duet" garnered national attention, and it spread from at least Philadelphia to Albuquerque,[9] and has been heard on radio stations in California as well. It was never officially serviced to radio and has never been available commercially. Krauss' recording won the 1995 CMA award for "Single of the Year". The song has been featured a couple of times in the soap opera The Young and the Restless. Krauss' version was also used in the 1999 motion picture "The Other Sister".

Track listing

  1. "When You Say Nothing at All"
  2. "Charlotte's In North Carolina"

Chart performance

Chart (1995) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[10] 7
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[11] 91
US Billboard Hot 100[12] 53
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[13] 3

Year-end charts

Chart (1995) Position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[14] 99

Ronan Keating version

"When You Say Nothing at All"
Single by Ronan Keating
from the album Ronan, Notting Hill and By Request
Released July 26, 1999
Format CD single, cassette single
Recorded 1999;
Metropolis and the Aquarium
(London, United Kingdom)
Genre Soft rock
Length 4:18
Label Polydor
Producer(s) Stephen Lipson
Ronan Keating singles chronology
"When You Say Nothing at All"
"Life Is a Rollercoaster"

"When You Say Nothing at All" was released as the debut solo single by Irish singer-songwriter Ronan Keating. The song was recorded in 1999 for the soundtrack to the film Notting Hill and also appeared on Keating's debut solo album, Ronan. The song was released on July 26, 1999, in the United Kingdom. It peaked at number one in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand. In the UK, the single was certified gold. In 2003, Keating re-recorded the song as a duet with Mexican singer Paulina Rubio, which was released in Mexico and Latin America (excluding Brazil) to promote Keating's second studio album, Destination. In Brazil, Ronan chose the Brazilian singer Deborah Blando to re-record the song for the 10 Years Of Hits album exclusive for that country (an exclusive music video was recorded for this version with Deborah).

Track listing

  1. "When You Say Nothing at All" – 4:18
  2. "When You Say Nothing at All" (acoustic version) – 3:30
  3. "This Is Your Song" – 4:03
  4. "When You Say Nothing at All" (music video) – 4:25
  1. "When You Say Nothing At All" – 4:18
  2. "At The End Of A Perfect Day" – 4:37
  3. "I Will Miss You" – 3:05
  1. "When You Say Nothing at All" – 4:18
  2. "This Is Your Song" – 4:03

Charts and certifications


Chart (1999) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[15] 3
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[16] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[17] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[18] 38
Denmark (IFPI)[19] 6
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[20] 5
France (SNEP)[21] 41
Germany (Official German Charts)[22] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[23] 1
Italy (FIMI)[24] 6
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[25] 5
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[26] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[27] 5
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[28] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[29] 4
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[30] 1


Country Certifications
Australia Platinum[31]
Norway Gold[32]
United Kingdom Platinum[33]

Other covers

The Italian-Ukrainian-Brazilian singer Deborah Blando recorded "When You Say Nothing at All" in English and Portuguese for the Brazilian version of the song, which featured on the Brazilian version of Destination. The single reached the top 10 in the Latin charts.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Collins, Ace (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music's All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York: Boulevard. p. 268. ISBN 1-57297-072-3.
  2. 1 2 3 Roland, Tom (1991). The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits. New York: Billboard. p. 539. ISBN 0-8230-7553-2.
  3. 1 2 3 Whitburn, Joel (2005). Top Country Songs 1944-2005. Menomonee Falls, Wis.: Record Research. p. 416. ISBN 0-89820-165-9.
  4. CMT. "100 Greatest Love Songs". Retrieved 2007-05-22.
  5. Matt Bjorke (February 19, 2015). "Country Music's Top 30 Digital Singles: Week of February 19, 2015". Roughstock.
  6. "Keith Whitley – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Keith Whitley. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  7. Horak, Terri (1995-01-21). "Rounder Goes All Out for Grammy-Nominated Krauss". Billboard. Accessed via ProQuest.
  8. Cromelin, Richard (1995-03-25). "A Hit from Country's Kinfolk / Bluegrass's most prominent figure makes her way into country music's Top 10. Even Alison Krauss can't explain it.". Los Angeles Times. p. F1. Accessed via ProQuest.
  9. Cave, Kathy (1995-05-05). "Whitley, Krauss blend grabs national attention". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. B8. Accessed via ProQuest.
  10. "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 9199." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. June 19, 1995. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  11. "Alison Krauss: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  12. "Alison Krauss – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Alison Krauss. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  13. "Alison Krauss – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Alison Krauss. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  14. "RPM Top 100 Country Tracks of 1995". RPM. December 18, 1995. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  15. "Australian-charts.com – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  16. "Austriancharts.at – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  17. "Ultratop.be – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  18. "Ultratop.be – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  19. Billboard. Billboard September 25, 1999. Billboard. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  20. "Ronan Keating: When You Say Nothing At All" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  21. "Lescharts.com – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  22. "Musicline.de – KEATING,RONAN Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  23. "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irish Recorded Music Association. Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  24. "Italiancharts.com – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All". Top Digital Download. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  25. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Ronan Keating search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  26. "Charts.org.nz – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  27. "Norwegiancharts.com – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All". VG-lista. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  28. "Swedishcharts.com – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  29. "Swisscharts.com – Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  30. "Archive Chart: 1999-08-14" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  31. "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1999 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  32. "IFPI Norsk platebransje – Trofeer" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. 1999. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  33. "British Phonographic Industry". British Phonographic Industry. 1999-07-30. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
Preceded by
"A Tender Lie"
by Restless Heart
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single (Keith Whitley)

December 24, 1988 — December 31, 1988
Succeeded by
"Hold Me"
by K.T. Oslin
Preceded by
"Livin' la Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin
UK Singles Chart number one single (Ronan Keating)
August 1, 1999 — August 14, 1999
Succeeded by
"If I Let You Go" by Westlife
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