Songwriter Richard Fagan Dies
Nashville songwriter Richard Fagan passed away on Friday evening (Aug. 5), at the age of 69, after an ongoing battle with liver cancer, the Tennessean reports. His wife was by his side.
Fagan, whose cancer required him to receive in-home nursing care, was born on April 24, 1947, in Philadelphia, Pa. After learning basic guitar as a young child, he began singing do-wop at the age of 14, when he joined two students harmonizing in the junior high lunch room.
Fagan was later drafted into the Army, served in Vietnam and returned to Philadelphia as a homeless vet in the mid '70s. It was there he met Tom Oteri, father of Saturday Night Live veteran Cheri Oteri, who took Fagan under his wing and recorded five of Fagan's songs for a demo package. Bob Gaudio, Neil Diamond's producer, heard the demo, and Diamond recorded Fagan's "The Good Lord Loves You" in 1980.
In 1986, Fagan moved to Nashville and became roommates with Oteri, now his best friend. Within one week, he had two great pieces of news: "Blue Suede Blues" was being recorded by Con Hunley, and Moe Bandy wanted to record "Americana." The latter reached No. 8 on Billboard's country charts, and George H. W. Bush decided to use "Americana" as the theme song for his presidential campaign.
Throughout his career, Fagan earned hits with Shenandoah, Mel McDaniel, George Strait, John Michael Montgomery, Diamond, Hank Williams Jr., George Jones, Shania Twain, Clay Walker, Ricochet, Patty Loveless, Collin Raye and many others. He had six Top 10 singles on the Billboard country charts, including songs such as "Be My Baby Tonight," "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)" and "Why Can't We All Just Get a Long Neck." From being named Billboard Country Single of the Year to earning spots on soundtracks to Hollywood feature films, Fagan's songs acquired much acclaim, and all together, the albums containing his songs have sold more than 25 million copies.
However, Fagan was perhaps most well-known for an incident that took place later on in his life, in April of 2008. He was still living with Oteri, who had helped him through drug and alcohol issues and was his advocate. As Fagan told the Tennessean, he had been mixing alcohol and antidepressants, and he and Oteri got into a physical battle. When Oteri told him to leave the house, Fagan slashed both of Oteri’s wrists with a pocket knife, got into his car, drove away and was arrested for a DUI. He used his one call in jail to contact a friend to check on Oteri, feeling worried after leaving him bleeding, but after Oteri was found dead, Fagan was re-arrested and charged with criminal homicide.
"I was crying, ‘It should’ve been me. It should’ve been me,'” he recalls.
However, Fagan was sentenced to rehab, not prison, because Oteri's children stood up for him and asked the court for leniency when an autopsy revealed that Oteri passed from a heart attack, not the cuts. Fagan concluded that the tragedy saved him from drinking himself to death, and after his release from seven months of rehab, he set out to be a mentor to others in the songwriting community -- like Oteri was to him.
"I want to leave a bigger legacy," he said at the time, telling The Boot, “Saul was walking on the road to Damascus when he ran into this dude, and it changed him. From that moment on, he went around telling everybody what he used to be like, what happened and what he is now, and it’s just that spiritual an experience [for me]. It’s that big a change, and I’m just amazed.”
Three and a half years ago, Fagan was diagnosed with liver cancer and given six months to live. But, he focused on crafting his 2015 record, Redemption, and lived to release the highly personal album.
Funeral arrangements for Fagan are pending.
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