Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
It’s about damn time.
Despite a career that was cut all too short by his untimely death only 5 years after the release of his first album, Keith Whitley has managed to cement his place as one of the greatest country singers of all time.
And yesterday, he was finally given his rightful spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Whitley was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Jerry Lee Lewis and record label executive Joe Galante at the Hall’s 2022 Medallion Ceremony yesterday. And although Whitley wasn’t there to see it, his widow Lorrie Morgan said that he never would have believed it:
“Keith was three weeks away from being made a member of the Grand Ole Opry when he passed away. He didn’t know it and he would have never suspected this in his life.
This is the greatest honor for me to accept this along with my children, Jesse Keith Whitley and Morgan Whitley. We have been through a lot together in remembering Keith and loving Keith and missing Keith and my whole family. We’ve all missed him together.”
Along with his wife, who accepted his Hall of Fame medallion in his place, and his children, Whitley was also honored by Garth Brooks, who performed “Don’t Close Your Eyes” before officially inducting Whitley into the Hall of Fame.
“One of the greatest voices to ever grace country music. That guy could out-sing 99% of us.”
In addition to Brooks, Whitley was also honored by Mickey Guyton, who performed “When You Say Nothing at All,” and Ricky Skaggs, Molly Tuttle and Justin Moses performing “Tennessee Blues.”
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: If Keith Whitley were still around today, he would be the biggest name in country music history. He was just that good.
And it’s about time he got the honor he deserved, and assumed his rightful place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Keith Whitley Announced As Member of 2022 Country Music Hall Of Fame Class
This year’s inductees include Joe Galante, Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Whitley.
Galante will be inducted in the “Non-Performer” category, which is awarded every third year in rotation with “Recording and/or Touring Musician” and “Songwriter” categories.
Lewis will be inducted in the “Veterans Era Artist” category and Whitley will be inducted in the “Modern Era Artist” category.
The ceremony was hosted by legendary country music duo, Brooks & Dunn.
Joe Galante said that he was completely speechless:
“When I heard the news I was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, it was the first time in my entire career I was speechless. I’m humbled, beyond honored and honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.”
Jerry Lee Lewis reflected back on joining his heroes Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers:
“To be recognized by Country Music with their highest honor is a humbling experience. The little boy from Ferriday, LA listening to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams never thought he’d be in a Hall amongst them.
I am appreciative of all those who have recognized that Jerry Lee Lewis music is Country Music and to our almighty God for his never-ending redeeming grace.”
And finally, Lorrie Morgan weighed on the induction of her late husband, the great Keith Whitley:
“In my heart, this feels like an absolutely appropriate honor, but at the same time, I know that Keith would be painfully humbled, and even shy about accepting an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame,.
Music was all about emotion to Keith. It was personal. There were so many great artists he admired, even worshipped. To stand in their company in the Hall of Fame would’ve been overwhelmingly emotional for him.
I am thrilled to see him honored this way, and for what it means to my children, Morgan and Jesse Keith; to Keith’s grandchildren; the Whitley family; and to the many, many fans who continue to point to Keith as one of the all-time greats.”
Even in Whitley’s short career, he managed to become one of the most influential artists to put their mark on the country music world. Some even say he would be considered the King of Country music had he not passed away in 1989, at just 34 years old.
With hit songs like “When You Say Nothing At All,” “I’m No Stranger To The Rain,” “Miami, My Amy,” “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and more, you’d be hard pressed to find a country artist right now (at least a good one) that wouldn’t call Whitley a huge inspiration.