Thirty-two years ago today, on Sept. 4, 1991, the country music community was in mourning: It was on that date that Dottie West died, from injuries sustained in a car crash. West was 58 years old at the time of her death.
In her early 20s, West became friends with several up-and-coming singers and songwriters, including Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard and Patsy Cline, who motivated the aspiring singer to launch her own music career. West rose to fame in the 1960s with hit songs such as “Here Comes My Baby,” “Would You Hold It Against Me,” “Paper Mansions” and “Like a Fool,” among others.
In the ’70s, West recorded a series of successful duets with Kenny Rogers, including “Every Time Two Fools Collide” and “All I Ever Need Is You,” both of which became No. 1 hits. Following her collaborations with Rogers, West had a string of additional successes on her own, including “A Lesson in Leavin'” and “Are You Happy Baby,” along with her final duet with Rogers, “What Are We Doin’ in Love.”
West ran into financial trouble later in her career, divorcing her third husband and declaring bankruptcy in 1990. The singer lost many of her possessions, including her home, but she was undeterred and started to make plans for a comeback. Among her ideas was a new album featuring many of her famous friends, including Rogers, Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette.
On Aug. 30, 1991, West was en route to the Grand Ole Opry in a car that Rogers had given her during her financial hardships. When the car stalled, the Opry member called her neighbor, George Thackton, who came to her aid. However, as he was speeding to get West to the venue on time, Thackton lost control of his vehicle, crashing into the central divider of the road as he was exiting the freeway. Although West originally did not seem injured, she suffered both a ruptured spleen and a lacerated liver, and she died several days later, during her third operation, after receiving 30 units of blood in an attempt to save her life.
“When you bleed a lot and you have a 60-year-old heart, your heart does not tolerate that blood loss,” Dr. John A. Morris said of West’s death.
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