This was written around 1960 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant (an interesting songwriting team I’d never heard of before) and made a hit then by the Everly Brothers. But the versions I care about are by Emmylou Harris, especially her version with Gram Parsons.

Fabrice and Boudleaux Bryant

The Bryants

It’s about the simplest country melody imaginable, sung super slow, so the lyrics are few: Oh, these sleepless nights / Will break my heart in two. I’m really hard-pressed to pick between Ms Harris’ solo version on Pieces of the Sky (a wonderful collection, by the way) or the collaboration with Gram Parsons on a Flying Burrito Brothers album also called Sleepless Nights, which features her on several songs (extra-wonderful). The Emmylou/Gram harmonies are exquisite (granted, Emmylou/anyone harmonies usually are), but on Pieces of the Sky, Emmylou takes the song on very much alone, with an unusually spare arrangement. They’re both real weepers.

Sleepless Nights, Flying Burrito Brothers

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).

Links · Spotify playlist. Solo on Pieces of the Sky: Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. With Gram on Sleepless Nights: iTunes, Spotify. Amazon. The only live video I can find is Emmylou with the “Milk Carton Kids” (and Steve Earle sitting in) which is pretty meh.


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April 30, 2018
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