Joe South Passes Away at 72

Singer-Songwriter Joe South passed away at his home on Wednesday at the age of 72. No cause of death has been announced.

South was born Joseph Souter and broke into the music business in 1957 with the novelty record The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor (1958/Pop #47). While his public persona may have been in novelty, he was writing straight out rockers, two of which were recorded by Gene Vincent, I Might Have Known and Gone Gone Gone.

During the sixties, South continued songwriting but became better known as a session guitarist playing with artists like Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed and Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde) and on such records as Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin, Sheila by Tommy Roe and The Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel.

As a songwriter, South's biggest hits came for Billy Joe Royal including his hits Down in the Boondocks and I Knew You When while his song Hush became a hit for Deep Purple.

In 1969, South finally found success as a recording artist with Games People Play, a song that talked about the interactions between people, calling them out on hypocrisy and intolerance. The song made it to number 12 in the U.S. and number 6 in the U.K. He equaled that position in the U.S. the next year with Walk a Mile in My Shoes while having lesser hits with Don't it Make You Want to Go Home and Birds of a Feather.  Games went on to win the Grammys as Song of the Year and Best Contemporary Song.

Among his other songwriting hits were (I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden (Lynn Anderson), These Are Not My People (Freddy Weller), Yo-Yo (Osmonds) and the previously mentions Birds of a Feather (Paul Revere & the Raiders).

In 1971, Joe's brother, Tommy, committed suicide which put South in a deep depression that sent him to live in the jungles of Maui. He continued to record for a few more years but, other than rumors of new music, he didn't release a new studio album after 1976's You're the Reason.

Joe South is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1979) and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (2003).

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