Patsy Cline is regarded as one of the most successful and influential country artists in history. With her beautiful voice and timeless songs such as "Crazy" and "She's Got You," Cline helped pave the way for female artists in the genre, and continues to serve as an inspiration to many.
In 2002, CMT named Cline as the greatest female country singer on its 40 Greatest Women of Country Music special. Rolling Stone also honored Cline by placing her in the 46th spot in its issue on the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Photo Credit: The Wall Street Journal
Cline managed to earn her iconic status with only three studio albums and a small collection of singles. That's because on March 5, 1963, Cline was killed in a plane crash while flying back to Nashville from Kansas City.
Also killed in the crash were Cline's fellow Grand Ole Opry stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, and her manager Randy Hughes.
Cline had been trying to get back home to Nashville for two days after playing three benefit shows on Sunday, March 3 in Kansas City. In January of that year, popular DJ "Cactus" Jack Call was killed in a car accident, and the benefit was set up to help raise money for his family.
West was one of Cline's closest friends, and she said she will never forget watching her perform that day:
"I walked out and watched the shows, and I will never forget that gorgeous white chiffon dress she wore. I thought, 'My God! She sings like an angel, and she looks like one.' She was just beautiful."
One of the last known photos of Cline, taken by Francis Nunez on March 3, 1963, two days before her death.
It was rainy and foggy on the day of the show, which made conditions too dangerous for planes to take off. Cline ended up turning down West and her husband's offer for a ride in their car, feeling that the plane would get her home faster. She hadn't been feeling well, was extremely tired, and simply wanted to get home to see her two children, Julie and Randy.
When the rainstorm finally passed, Cline and the others were able to board the plane and take off in the early afternoon on March 5. But they couldn't completely escape the storm, and Hughes, who didn't know how to fly using instruments, landed the plane every time the weather got too rough for him to handle.
The plane made its last stop in the town of Dyersburg, Tennessee, where the airport manager warned Hughes that it wasn't safe to take off. Hughes was determined to give it a try, and even refused the manager's offer to loan him his car. He refueled the plane before he took off and went back into the storm around 6:07 PM.
According to Cline's watch, which had stopped and was eventually recovered from the scene of the crash, the plane went down 13 minutes later, at 6:20 PM. Singer-songwriter Roger Miller was one of the first people on the scene the following morning, and said the plane's engine was found resting at the bottom of a crater. This made Miller assume that the plane must have hit the ground at full speed when it crashed.
Cline's body was recovered from the wreckage, and she was laid to rest at Shenandoah Memorial Park in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia. West and fellow country star Loretta Lynn had a bell tower placed at the cemetery in Cline's memory, which plays hymns every day at the hour of her death.
This year marks the 53rd anniversary of Cline's death, the day country music lost one of its brightest stars.
Cline was only 30 when she died, and for decades country fans have wondered how the genre would be different today if she lived to make more music. However, Cline's presence is still strong in country music, since she helped inspire so many artists, even those she never knew.
May you rest in peace Patsy Cline. You are so dearly missed.
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