Jesse Keith Whitley Remembers His Late Father, Keith Whitley

Keith Whitley passed away on this day in 1989.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

May 9, 2023


3:53 pm

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Jesse Keith Whitley, Keith Whitley; Photos via Jesse Keith Whitley Facebook

Tuesday, May 9, 2023 marks 34 years since Nashville hitmaker, Keith Whitley, passed away as a result of his battle with alcoholism. In honor of the anniversary of his death, Whitley’s son, Jesse Keith Whitley, took to social media to pen a heartfelt message to his father in remembrance of his life and legacy

“Usually I always have something clever to say about how much everyone still misses you and how many people you still touch and influence to this day. But, you know that we all know that nothing has changed including how hard this day will forever be,” the singer/songwriter began in his statement. 

Keith Whitley; Photo via Facebook
Keith Whitley; Photo via Facebook

Jesse went on to share how difficult it can be to continue on with his life knowing that his father isn’t there to celebrate the important moments with. 

“It never gets easier in fact this year seems to hit a little bit different. I wish you could be here to see and play with your grandkids and grand dogs,” he continued. 

Despite the hardship that comes with this day each year, Jesse managed to end his post on a light note as he wrote, “I wish you and I could ride Harley’s, make music and eat hot chicken. Soon enough. Here’s to the greatest to ever do it. I love you dad!”

Many took to the comment section to share their condolences, including Whey Jennings, grandson of the legendary Waylon Jennings, who wrote, “Love you brother.”

Whitley was only about four years into his country music career when he suddenly passed away on May 9, 1989 after a long struggle with alcoholism. His brother-in-law, Lane Palmer was the one to find the singer dead in his bead with a blood alcohol of .47.

He left behind his wife, Lorrie Morgan, whom he had been married to for less than three years, his son, Jesse Keith Whitley, and a step-daughter, Morgan, whom he adopted.

Keith Whitley; Photo via Instagram
Keith Whitley; Photo via Instagram

Whitley’s time in country music may have been short-lived, but his legacy will never be forgotten as he is still considered to be one of the greatest artists in the genre’s history. 

Throughout his career, the RCA recording artist racked up five consecutive No. 1 singles and wrote a total of 19 singles that placed on the Billboard country charts. These hits include his signature tracks, “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” and “When You Say Nothing At All.” 

After his passing, fans got to experience one last project from Whitley through the release of his fourth album, I Wonder Do You Think Of Me. This project proved to be successful as hit reached No. 2 on the charts. 

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Since Whitley’s music continues to make an incredible impact on the industry, the late artist was officially inducted as the 149th member of the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 16, 2022. 

During the star-studded Medallion Ceremony held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater, Whitley was celebrated in the Modern Era Artist category and honored with performances by Mickey Guyton (“When You Say Nothing At All”), Ricky Skaggs, Molly Tuttle, and Justin Moses (“Tennessee Blues”), and Garth Brooks (“Don’t Close Your Eyes”).  

Lorrie Morgan accepts Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum induction on behalf of Keith Whitley presented by Garth Brooks (L) and CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Kyle Young; Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

After receiving an emotional introduction by Garth brooks, Whitley’s widow, fellow country singer, Lorrie Morgan, accepted the honor alongside her and Whitley’s kids.

“This is the greatest honor for me to accept this, along with my children, Jesse Keith Whitley (and) Morgan Whitley,” Morgan said emotionally. “We have been through a lot together in remembering Keith and loving Keith and missing Keith. My whole family, we’ve all missed him together.”

Keith Whitley; Photo via Facebook
Keith Whitley; Photo via Facebook

Jesse Keith Whitley is now carrying on his father’s legacy in the music industry. He released his first set of singles in 2011 including “Why The Hell Not,” “Kentucky Thunder,” “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” and more. The singer/songwriter has continued to drop music over the years, and in 2021, he unveiled his debut album, Breakin’ Ground.

His latest project comes in the form of his patriotic song, “Red White and Blue.”

Jesse’s most recent performance was held on May 6 in Jonesborough, TN. He has yet to announce any upcoming appearances. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.