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Joe South Dead at 72

Singer-songwriter Joe South, who penned several iconic pop-country crossover hits including “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” died at his home in Flowery Branch, Ga., Wednesday morning (Sept 5). He was 72.

“Rose Garden,” as recorded by Lynn Anderson in 1970 and most recently by Martina McBride on her Timeless album, was also covered by Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell, k.d. lang and many others. South himself recorded it in 1969, and versions by Dobie Gray and R&B trio the Three Degrees also predated the hit by Anderson.

Among other hits South wrote are 1969’s “Games People Play” and “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” a year later. Both reached No. 12 for him on the pop chart (the latter was also covered by Elvis Presley). Other oft-recorded songs of South’s include “I Knew You When,” “Down in the Boondocks” and “Hush,” a 1968 Top 10 pop hit for rock band Deep Purple.

Born Joe Souter in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 28, 1940, as a child he was obsessed with technology and developed his own radio station with a transmission area of a mile. In 1958, he recorded his debut single, a novelty tune called “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor.”

He became a session guitarist in both Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Ala., backing such artists as Eddy Arnold, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Marty Robbins. South also backed Bob Dylan on the superstar’s legendary 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde.

Joe South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979 and is also enshrined in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He retired from the music business after his brother’s suicide in 1971, and although he made a brief return in 1975, soon retired from performing and recording. He resurfaced in 1994 at a London concert showing American performers from the South, and then became involved in the music-publishing industry.

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