With some help from a friend named Oliver English, Nelson wrote the song in early 1961 ; at the time he was a journeyman singer-songwriter who had written several hits for other artists but had not yet had a significant recording of his own. Nelson originally wrote the song for country singer Billy Walker who turned it down for the same reason Roy Drusky turned down "I Fall to Pieces" the previous year - that it was "a girl's song". The song's eventual success helped launch Nelson as a performer as well as a songwriter.
Musically the song is a jazz-pop ballad with country overtones and a complex melody. The lyrics describe the singer's state of bemusement at the singer's own helpless love for the object of his affection.
Patsy Cline version
Patsy Cline, who was already a country musicsuperstar and working to extend a string of hits, picked it as a follow up to her previous big hit I Fall to Pieces. "Crazy", its complex melody suiting Cline's vocal talent perfectly, was released in late 1961 and immediately became another huge hit for Cline and widened the crossover audience she had established with her prior hits. It spent 21 weeks on the chart and eventually became one of her signature tunes. Cline's version is #85 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
According to the Ellis Nassour biography Patsy Cline, Nelson, who at that time was known as a struggling songwriter by the name of Hugh Nelson, was a regular at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Nashville's Music Row, where he frequented with friends Kris Kristofferson and Roger Miller, both unknown songwriters at that time. Nelson met Cline's husband, Charlie Dick, at the bar one evening and pitched the song to him. Dick took the track home and played it for Cline, who absolutely hated it at first because Nelson's demo "spoke" the lyrics ahead of and behind the beat, about which an annoyed Cline remarked that she ``couldn't sing like that.
However, Cline's producer, Owen Bradley, loved the song and arranged it in the ballad form in which it was later recorded. On Loretta Lynn's album I Remember Patsy Bradley reported that as Patsy was still recovering from a recent automobile accident that nearly took her life, she'd had difficulty reaching the high notes of the song on the original production night due to her broken ribs. So after about four hours of trying, in the days of four songs being recorded in three hours - they called it a night. A week later she came back and recorded the lead vocal we all know in one take.
On the same interview, Loretta remembers the first time Cline performed it at the Grand Ole Opry on crutches, and received three standing ovations. Barbara Mandrell remembers Cline introducing the song to her audiences live in concert saying
All my recent hits have come true in my life. I had a hit out called Tra-La-La Triangle and people thought about me and Gerald and Charlie. I had another hit out called 'I Fall to Pieces' and I was in a car wreck. Now I'm really worried because I have a new hit single out and its called 'Crazy'.
Willie Nelson stated on the 1993 documentary Remembering Patsy that Cline's version of "Crazy" was his favorite song of his that anybody had ever recorded because it "was a lot of magic."
The song and album are a central image in as well as helping to name the 2005 Canadian film C.R.A.Z.Y.
The song appears on the soundtrack to the videogame Twisted Metal. It is only heard in the game's story cutscenes and does not play during regular gameplay.
The song is used as the title music for "What The Fuck Is WRONG With You?!", a series of online videos by Nash Bozard as well as a segment of Bozard's internet radio show Radio Dead Air's Monday night broadcast of the same name, that both humorously relay various news stories of stupidity.
The Patsy Cline version of the song appears throughout the video game Deadpool, first when Deadpool sings along with the elevator muzak version of it and again when Death lip syncs to it.
The Patsy Cline version of the song is also featured in the 1991 film Doc Hollywood starring Michael J. Fox.
The Patsy Cline version of the song can be heard in the background of the movie Tommy Boy when Richard goes into the gas station.
The Patsy Cline version of the song was played in the opening credits of Filipino actor Cesar Montano's film Bilang na ang araw mo (1996), also in the opening scenes where Charlene Gonzales lipsynchs to it.