“Before the Next Teardrop Falls” is an American country and pop song written by Vivian Keith and Ben Peters, and most famously recorded by Freddy Fender.
The song was written in 1967 and had been recorded more than two dozen times. It had achieved modest success in versions by various performers; the original version by Duane Dee reached #44 on the Billboard country chart in early 1968, and Linda Martell sent her version to #33 in early 1970. Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of it on his 1969 album, Another Place Another Time.
In 1974, record producer Huey P. Meaux approached singer Freddy Fender about overdubbing vocals for an instrumental track. Fender agreed, performing the song bilingual style—singing the first half of the song in English, then repeating that portion in Spanish.
“The recording only took a few minutes,” Fender once told an interviewer. “I was glad to get it over with and I thought that would be the last of it.”
However, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” immediately took off in popularity when released to country radio in January 1975. The song ascended to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in March, spending two weeks atop the chart. Thereafter, the song caught on just as strongly at Top 40 radio stations and it was not long before Fender had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit as well. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song of 1975.
The song is about a man’s undaunted determination to save his heart for the just-departed object of his deep (but unrequited) love, and sincere hope that should the woman’s new relationship not work out, she will remember his love and return to him. As originally composed, it is in thirty-two bar form (Fender’s bilingual recording stretches the piece to 48 bars).
A showcase of Fender’s tenor and Meaux’s Tex-Mex musical styling, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” jump-started his career. (Fender’s career had stalled in 1960 after his arrest on drug charges.) In the months and years that followed, Fender recorded several bilingual standards which became major hits, most notably “Secret Love”.
Fender also has recorded a version fully in Spanish, entitled “Estaré contigo cuando triste estés” (literally “I will be with you when you are sad”). The Spanish-language second verse in the English version, is the first verse of the fully Spanish version.
“Before The Next Teardrop Falls” was certified gold for sales of 1 million units by the Recording Industry Association of America. The song also won the Single of the Year award from the Country Music Association in 1975, and was conducive to his also winning that year’s Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year awards.
The song was used in the movie The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005), starred and directed by Tommy Lee Jones.