Friday, September 7, 2012

Joe South R.I.P.

Songwriter and singer Joe South died on 5 September 2012 at the age of 72. The cause was a heart attack. Joe South was born Joseph Souter on 28 February 1940 in Atlanta, Georgia.

 He was only eleven years old when his father gave him his first guitar. By the time he was twelve years old he was performing on local radio stations. Not only was he musically inclined from a young age, but he was also technologically inclined. He built his own limited range radio transmitters so he could play his music.

 It was in 1958 that Joe South would have a minor hit with the novelty song "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor," which went to #47 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although he was a singer and performer, Mr. South's biggest impact may have been as a songwriter. It was in 1959 that he wrote two songs for Gene Vincent: "I Might Have Known" and "Gone Gone Gone." Joe South would have several hits performed by other artists, for whom he either wrote songs or who simply covered a song he had originally recorded. Billy Jo Royal would have hits with the Joe South penned songs "Down in the Boondocks", ""Yo-Yo," , and "Hush." The Raiders would have a hit with his song "Birds of a Feather." Brook Benton would do very well with "Don't It Make You Want To Go Home." Elvis Presley would later cover Joe South's song "Walk a Mile in My Shoes." Joe South's most successful song that he penned for someone else may have been "Rose Garden," which crossed over from the country chart to the pop chart.

Joe South also worked as a session musician for many years in the Sixties. He played on such songs as "Sheila" by Tommy Roe and "Chain of Fools" by Aretha Franklin. Bob Dylan was among the artists with whom he worked, as well as Marty Robbins, Wilson Pickett, and Eddy Arnold.

It was in the late Sixties that Joe South's career as a singer and performer began to take off. He had a hit with the song "Games People Play," which went to #12 on the Billboard pop charts. He would have further, minor hits with "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home," "Walk a Mile in My Shoes," and "Fool Me." He recorded his first album, Introspect, in 1969. He would follow it up with Games People Play, Don't It Make You Want to Go Home and Joe South. His later albums would not perform nearly as well as his early albums, although he recorded several more.

While I cannot say I liked every song Joe South wrote, I do believe he was a very talented songwriter. Indeed, he wrote songs in such genres as rock, folk, and country. What may have been his biggest hit, "Rose Garden," was definitely country, but "Games People Play" was definitely rock. This versatility allowed him to write for vastly different artists and also to perform in different genres himself.

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