Garth Brooks Sings ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ at Keith Whitley’s Country Music HOF Ceremony

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

There are few artists who are more deserving of their spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame than Keith Whitley. More than three decades after his death, his legacy still reverberates through the country music world. Whitley and artists like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and George Strait helped to steer the genre back to its roots in the 80s and set the stage for 90s country. More than that, Whitley made the kind of music that transcends generations. They’ll still be singing his songs long after we’ve all been called Home. So, when it finally came time to induct Whitley into the HoF, some of the biggest names in the genre showed up. Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, and several other heavy hitters were there.

Garth Brooks was among the artists who lobbied for Keith Whitley to be in the Hall of Fame for years. Last night, Brooks got to see it happen firsthand. To make things even better, Brooks inducted Whitley into the HoF. Garth presented the long overdue medallion to Whitley’s widow, Lorrie Morgan.

That wasn’t all. Garth Brooks also took the stage to perform a Keith Whitley classic. Garth played an acoustic rendition of “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and killed it. Check it out below.

There’s something about a stripped-down arrangement that tends to give songs a little more punch. “Don’t Close Your Eyes” is already a pretty heavy song. However, with just Garth Brook’s voice and finger-picked acoustic guitar, he adds a thumb to the scale. More than that, the emotion and reverence are clear in his vocal delivery here. Seeing one of the genre’s biggest stars paying tribute to one of its most influential singers makes this one for the history books.

Garth Brooks on Keith Whitley

While inducting Keith Whitley into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Garth Brooks shared how he felt about the former Clinch Mountain Boy. Brooks called him “One of the greatest voices to ever grace country music,” before getting a little more in-depth.

In a room full of legendary artists, Brooks said, “Honestly, the guy could out-sing 99 percent of us.” When he’s right, he’s right.

“If you ever hear ‘I Never Go Around Mirrors’… I’m in love with my wife and my wife has me convinced that she loves me. But, when Keith Whitley does that ‘cause,’ when he drops a whole octave, that woman can’t remember my name,” Garth Brooks joked. Listen to the song below to see what he means.

“Don’t Close Your Eyes”

Keith Whitley released this Bob McDill-penned tune as the third single from the album of the same name. It was his first number-one single. Additionally, it was the first of five consecutive chart-toppers for the Kentucky native.

Don’t Close Your Eyes was only Keith Whitley’s second album. Unfortunately, it was the last to be released before the singer passed away in May of 1989.