Don Gibson’s penchant for writing heartbreaking songs of loneliness and loss earned him the nickname “The Sad Poet.”
Don Gibson (1928 – 2003) was a popular country singer and songwriter in the 1950s and ’60s, with a string of hits on the country music charts. Gibson’s penchant for writing heartbreaking songs of loneliness and loss earned him the nickname “The Sad Poet,” and listeners loved those tragic tales. His 1958 No. 1 “Oh Lonesome Me” kicked off a rich career with plenty of sad songs that made it to country’s Top 10.
Just as popular as Gibson’s own recordings were the covers of his songs recorded by other great artists. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. I Can’t Stop Loving You Gibson’s 1957 composition was released as the B-side to Oh Lonesome Me, climbing to No. 7 on the country chart. But that was just the beginning of the amazing life of this emotional song of loss. Over the years since its initial release, I Can’t Stop Loving You has been reinterpreted by more than 700 artists. Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Conway Twitty, Kitty Wells, Jim Reeves, Ricky Nelson and Andy Williams are just a few of the hundreds of diverse singers who have recorded the tune. Count Basie released an instrumental version of it. Elvis Presley and Solomon Burke performed it in concerts that were recorded for album releases. Perhaps most successful was Ray Charles‘s 1962 version, included on his groundbreaking album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Charles’s interpretation of Gibson’s beautiful words was a winning combination, and the song was a smash hit.
2. Sweet Dreams Gibson tried twice with Sweet Dreams, first releasing it in 1956 and recording a new version in 1960. Both singles charted in the Top 10 on the country charts, but other interpretations of the hit eclipsed their fame. Faron Young’s version was released in the same year as Gibson’s first attempt, and its greater success – hitting No. 2 on the country charts – may have kept Gibson’s version from wider notice. Even more memorable was Patsy Cline‘s 1963 version. Recorded in the beginning of the year for inclusion on Cline’s Faded Love album, it became a posthumous hit after she died on March 5 of that year. Crossing over to pop-chart success, it was instrumental in bring Cline’s music to a wide audience.
3. Oh Lonesome Me That first No. 1 hit for Don Gibson has also been widely covered. Johnny Cash took it to No. 13 in 1961. Ray Charles included it on his Modern Sounds album, and Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood recorded a version. Perhaps most notable is Neil Young’s interpretation on his 1970 After the Gold Rush album. A prolific songwriter himself, Young rarely records songs by other composers. For him to choose the Gibson song underscores its quality and importance. Young’s interpretation is quite different from others, turning the bouncy tune into something darker and much sadder. It seems a particularly appropriate way to perform one of the great songs by The Sad Poet.