Category Archives: In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Dawn Sears, 1961-2014

Dawn Sears

We at Country Universe are very saddened to hear that Dawn Sears passed away yesterday at age 53 after a battle with lung cancer. She is survived by her husband Kenny Sears and their daughter Tess.

Born in East Grand Forks, Missouri in 1961, Sears began her country music career as a solo recording artist on Warner Bros. Records in the early nineties. Her debut album went sadly ignored by the country music mainstream, and she at first decided to leave the industry as a result. That changed when she got a call from Vince Gill inviting her to join his road band as a harmony vocalist, which led to her appearing on several of his albums as well. She is perhaps best known for her work as a vocalist for traditional country and Western swing ensemble The Time Jumpers, her husband Kenny also being a member, with whom she recorded two albums and received two Grammy nominations.

We offer our sincere condolences to Sears’ family, friends and bandmates. She will be deeply missed.

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In Memoriam: Kevin Sharp, 1970-2014

Kevin SharpNineties country star Kevin Sharp has passed away at the age of 43 from complications relating to cancer.

Sharp had major success with his debut album, Measure of a Man, which spawned three big hits: “Nobody Knows”, a Tony Rich Project cover that spent four weeks at #1, and two additional top five follow-up singles, “If You Love Somebody” and “She’s Sure Taking it Well.”

Sharp’s inspirational biography made his early success especially impressive. He suffered from a rare form of bone cancer that was so dire that he received a Make-a-Wish grant that introduced him to record producer David Foster.  After Sharp’s cancer went into remission, they remained in contact and Foster helped Sharp secure a contract with Asylum Records.

Sharp’s success came during a transitional time in country music, before one-hit wonders became far more common but while one-album wonders were becoming prominent.  Like Lari White, Paul Brandt, Michael Peterson, Deana Carter, and Ricochet, Sharp seemed to have garnered a foothold at radio, scoring several hits off a breakthrough album.

But like those other artists, radio completely ignored the follow-up project, Love is, in 1998.   Despite his first set going gold, he parted ways with his label after the second collection wasn’t a success.  A few years earlier, and radio would’ve probably played more of his second album. A few years later, and the burgeoning independent label scene and digital distribution methods might have made it easier for his career to maintain momentum.

Still, he found great success on the road in the new century, this time as an inspirational speaker, and he released an independent album in 2005, appropriately titled, Make a Wish.   By this time, he was a spokesperson for the organization that once introduced him to Foster.  His 2004 memoir’s title, Tragedy is a Gift, speaks to the positivity that defined Sharp’s work and made him such a wonderful addition to the country music scene in the latter half of the nineties.

 

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In Memoriam: Ray Price (1926-2013)

Ray PriceCountry Music Hall of Famer Ray Price has passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 87.

Price was instrumental in two of the most significant historical periods in country music, leading the way in both the twin fiddle-dominated honky-tonk of the 1950’s and the Nashville Sound pop crossover sound in the 1970’s.   While it was the former style that was dubbed the “Ray Price Shuffle”, it was the latter style that brought his greatest commercial success.

A touring artist well into his eighties, Price also recorded music right up until his illness, winning a Grammy in 2008 for his collaboration with fellow legend Willie Nelson.

This tremendous loss joins George Jones, Jack Clement, and Jack Greene in the ranks of country music legends who have passed away this year.  2013 also brought the tragic death of Mindy McCready, the near death scare for Randy Travis, and the heartbreaking news that Linda Ronstadt has lost her voice to Parkinson’s.  For country music fans, 2014 cannot come soon enough.

Enjoy two classic Ray Price hits below, one from each of his definitive eras:

“Crazy Arms”:

“For the Good Times”

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In Memoriam: Cowboy Jack Clement, 1931-2013

Cowboy Jack ClementThe long list of country music greats lost in 2013 continues with the passing of Cowboy Jack Clement, who succumbed to liver cancer yesterday morning at the age of 82.

Few have done so much to shape country music from behind the scenes as this legendary songwriter and producer.  In addition to writing some of the genre’s best-loved songs, he produced classic records such as “Ring of Fire” and “Dreaming My Dreams with You,” as well as Bobby Bare’s concept album A Bird Named Yesterday.  He also played an instrumental role in launching the careers of icons such a Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, while helping the now-legendary Charley Pride become one of the first major African-American country stars.  He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and is one of this year’s inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Be sure to check out this fine in-depth tribute by the always reliable Peter Cooper, as well as some personal remembrances by his good friends Kris Kristofferson and Marty Stuart.

Finally, enjoy the following performances of some of Clement’s most beloved compositions.  We at Country Universe are saddened to hear of Clement’s passing, and we extend our condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

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In Memoriam: George Jones (1931-2013)

Celeb Q&A George JonesRest in Peace, Possum.

An extensive tribute piece to follow.  In the meantime, enjoy the voice that will remain immortal and share your memories and favorite songs in the comments.

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In Memoriam: Jack Greene, 1930-2013

Jack GreeneCountry music lost one of its legendary talents today with the passing of Jack Greene, who succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 83.

Affectionately nicknamed the “Jolly Green Giant” for his lofty stature, Jack Greene was one of country music’s biggest stars in the late sixties and early seventies, remembered for his classic hits such as “There Goes My Everything” and “Statue of a Fool.”  At the very first CMA Awards ceremony in 1967, Jack Greene was one of the biggest winners of the night, winning Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year for “There Goes My Everything,” and Album of the Year for his LP of the same name.  He had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1967, and was a regular presence on the show up until his retirement in 2011.

In many ways, Jack Greene’s death

feels like the end of an era – truly a huge loss for country music.  May the Jolly Green Giant rest in peace.

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In Memoriam: Mindy McCready, 1975-2013

Mindy McCready

The very sad news that Mindy McCready has taken her own life has been reported by several sources.  Our hearts go out to her family and those close to her, especially her two young children.

Rather than focus on her troubled life, it seems most fitting to acknowledge this tragedy by spotlighting the bright spots in her life, particularly her musical talents.  While her music career is sparse compared to others who’ve been in the business as long as she has, her out put is noteworthy all the same.

In 2010, she released an album that went largely unnoticed, but I’m Still Here was a strong set of songs that found McCready in fine voice.  Included on the well produced project was a cover of Garth Brooks’ “The Dance,” along with some gems such as the regretful “Wrong Again,” the wistful “By Her Side,” and the stormy “I Want a Man.”

Of course, the height of Mindy’s success was in the mid nineties with memorable songs such as “Ten Thousand Angels,” “Guys Do It All the Time,” and “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now.”

Perhaps the most fitting tribute that Country Universe can pay to Mindy is the fact that the origins of our Six Pack series began with her music.  Kevin said it best, in May of 2008, when he wrote, “Mindy McCready made some great music back in her day, and I look forward to hearing more from her.  Quite frankly, she deserves to be known by her work, not her personal life.  Check out these six solid moments from her career and you’ll see what I mean.”

So, may we all follow Kevin’s advice, and know Mindy McCready for her work, not her personal life.

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In Memoriam: Kitty Wells, 1919-2012

Just a few weeks shy of her 93rd birthday, the Queen of Country Music has passed away.

Kitty Wells was the first female ordering viagra to canada country superstar, and for many years, the only consistent female hit-maker.

She also started a long tradition of controversial female records being banned at country radio.  Her answer song to “The Wild Side of Life” spent six weeks at #1 in 1952, and her name would forever be associated with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”  Indeed, the record made such a big impact that many don’t even know it was an answer song in the first place.

Her other big classic was “Making Believe”, which spent an astonishing 15 weeks at #2 in 1955.

Wells’ trailblazing career landed her at #9 on Country Universe’s 100 Greatest Women feature back in 2007.  You can read her entry here.

Rest in Peace, Miss Kitty Wells.

 

 

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In Memoriam: Dan Seals

dan-sealsSuccessful country singer Dan Seals has passed away at the age of 61.  Seals had a long run at the top of the country charts after a pop career as one half of England Dan and John Ford Coley. After the duo scored a huge hit with “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” Seals returned to his country roots.

Although he had a string of country hits, he is most remembered for his two award-winning chart-toppers.    In 1986, he won two CMA awards: Single of the Year for “Bop”, and Vocal Duo of the Year for “Meet Me in Montana”, his collaboration with Marie Osmond.

Seals is survived by his wife and his four children. Share your memories and tributes to his music in the commments.

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In Memoriam: Jerry Reed (1937-2008)

Country music suffered the loss of a legend yesterday.   Jerry “The Guitar Man” Reed was a tremendously talented performer best known for his stunning instrumental prowess and bitingly funny hits like “Lord Mr. Ford”, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” , “Amos Moses” and “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)”.  He was also well known for his role in Smokey & The Bandit.

There’s an excellent rundown of his diverse and successful entertainment career in today’s Tennessean, and it ends with the following quote from Reed himself:

“Every dream I ever dreamed came true in my life,” he told interviewer Calvin Gilbert in 2005. “I got to write hit songs… And I got to be on phonograph records… I’m a cotton mill boy, and I got to go to Hollywood. Can you imagine that? Why, yeah, my goodness gracious. Go figure.”

Here’s a pair of clips of Reed at his best:

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