Sunday, January 19, 2020
– David Olney died Saturday after suffering an apparent heart attack during a performance in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. at 71.
A key member of Nashville's music community since his move to Music City in 1973, the Lincoln, R.I. native leaned to towards more of a folk sound with country as part of the music.
Olney's songs have been recorded by Harris, Del McCourty, Linda Ronstadt and Steve Young. He wrote of a Nashville train disaster, baseball shortstop Phil Rizzuto, actor John Barrymore, Jesus from the narrative perspective of the donkey that carried him into Jerusalem, and the Titanic from the perspective of the iceberg that sank the ship.
Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris said, "David Olney tells marvelous stories, with characters who cling got the hope of enduring love, all the while crossing the deep divide into that long, dark night of the soul."
Steve Earle called Olney "one of the best songwriters working in the world today," and the late Townes Van Zandt once said, "Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say, 'Mozart, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bob Dylan and Dave Olney.'"
His friend and songwriting great Guy Clark said that Olney's art "transcends craftsmanship. It's inspired, for sure."
Olney moved to Nashville after briefly studying English at the University of North Carolina. He quickly fell in with a group of like-minded songwriters that included Clark, Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, and Richard Dobson. In the early 1980s, he formed The X-Rays, a rock band that secured a contract with Rounder Records. In 1986, he embarked on a solo recording career that produced more than 20 albums and allowed him to travel the world making music.
His first album was "Eye of the Storm" in 1986, while his most recent was 2017's "Don't Try to Fight It."
He is survived by wife, Regine, daughter, Lillian, and son, Redding.