August 1, 2012
A first class musician with R&B roots, Ronnie Milsap brought contemporary pop sophistication to the country music of his time, and it made him a superstar.
Milsap had a troubled childhood. He was blind from birth, and the divorce of his parents left him being raised by his father and his grandparents. While enrolled in a
school for the blind, instructors noticed his remarkable musical talent, and he began to study classical music. With stunning precision, he learned not only violin, but piano, guitar, and several other instruments.
His attention turned to rock music, and even though he was showing great promise as a pre-law student, he decided to go the music route instead. He first found success as an R&B singer, scoring a handful of chart hits that also grazed the pop charts. He mostly made his rent as a session musician, most notably working on sessions with Elvis Presley.
He was so well-known in other fields that Nashville executives were surprised to find him being pitched as a country act, but he was able to integrate his various genre skills into a modern sound that was distinctively country, despite overwhelming pop and R&B overtones. He hit quickly as a country singer, becoming one of the genre’s top acts almost out of the gate. As the Nashville sound was going uptown, his sophisticated approach was the perfect fit. For more than two decades, he dominated at radio and retail, along with the major award shows.
During his first wave of success in the seventies, he became the first artist to win CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year three times, and managed to pull off the same feat in their Album category as well. He’d win the latter category an unprecedented fourth time in in 1986, a record that stood until George Strait won his fifth in 2008. He also was a huge Grammy favorite, winning six, including five in the competitive Male Vocal race.
Milsap dominated at country radio to the tune of 35 #1 hits, but his blending of sounds made him appealing at pop radio as well. By the end of the crossover era, he’d scored several pop hits, even reaching the top five with his Grammy-winning classic, “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me.” While many seventies stars faded into obscurity, Milsap continued to do well at radio through the early nineties. In recent years, he has continued to record country albums, but has also explored other genres like pop, jazz, soul, and gospel, helping to bring his musical career full circle.
- (I’d Be) A Legend in My Time, 1974
- Daydreams About Night Things, 1975
- It was Almost Like a Song, 1977
- Smoky Mountain Rain, 1980
- (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me, 1981
- I Wouldn’t Have Missed it For the World, 1981
- Any Day Now, 1982
- Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In the Still of the Night), 1985
- A Woman in Love, 1989
- Pure Love, 1974
- Night Things, 1975
- 20/20 Vision, 1976
- Live, 1977
- There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, 1981
- Inside, 1982
- Lost in the Fifties Tonight, 1985
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