Top Songwriter Linda Hargrove Passes

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• October 25, 2010

Linda Hargrove

Hit songwriter and former session musician, producer and Nashville recording artist Linda Hargrove has died at age 61 in Florida.

One of the biggest country hit composers of the 1970s, she wrote or co-wrote for at least a dozen superstars. Among her most successful songs are “Tennessee Whiskey” (George Jones, 1983, David Allan Coe, 1981)), “Just Get Up and Close the Door” (Johnny Rodriguez, 1975), “Let It Shine” (Olivia Newton-John, 1976), “I’ve Never Loved Anyone More” (Lynn Anderson, 1975), “New York City Song” (Tanya Tucker, 1973, Jan Howard, 1973) and  “Half My Heart’s in Texas” (Ernest Tubb, 1978).

Others who recorded Hargrove tunes include Leon Russell, Michael Nesmith, Marty Robbins, Tracy Nelson, Eddy Arnold, Loretta Lynn, Al Green, Tammy Wynette, Sandy Posey, Jean Shepard, Anita Carter, Billie Jo Spears, B.J. Thomas, Dottie West, Jim Ed Brown, Moe Bandy, Tommy James, Merle Haggard, Asleep at the Wheel and Barbara Fairchild.

Linda Hargrove was also a recording artist, herself. Between 1974 and 1978, she released eight charting singles on Elektra, Capitol and RCA. Her biggest singing success was 1975’s “Love Was (Once Around the Dance Floor).”

Her five major-label country albums were Music Is Your Mistress (1973, Elektra), Blue Jean Country Queen (1974, Elektra), Love You’re the Teacher (Capitol, 1975), Just Like You (Capitol, 1976) and Impressions (Capitol, 1977).

At a time when female country performers were highly coiffed in glamorous evening gowns, Linda Hargrove defied convention by wearing her straight hair unstyled, not using makeup and dressing in denim. Hence her billing as “The Blue Jean Country Queen.”

Born in Florida in 1949, Linda Hargrove became intrigued by Music City after hearing Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album of 1969. In 1970, producer and steel guitarist Pete Drake discovered Hargrove, signed her to a song-publishing contract and began using her as a guitarist on recording sessions by Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis and other stars.

Within a few years, Hargrove was producing sessions, herself. Among her productions were ad jingles for Plymouth, Frito-Lay, Golden Flake potato chips and Dodge trucks.

She married and underwent a religious conversion. As Linda Bartholomew, her married name, she recorded gospel albums in 1981 and 1989. She also left Nashville and returned to her native Florida.

Signed to a second song-publishing contract on Music Row in 1993, she returned to Music City to perform showcases in 1993, 1994 and 1996. She issued her final album, One Woman’s Life, in 2005.

Throughout those years, her health became precarious. She had been diagnosed with leukemia in 1986.

“She underwent a bone marrow transplant 20 years ago,” reported her sister Susan Walker. “Complications from that caught up with her.”

Linda Hargrove died Sunday night, October 24, at Big Ben Hospice House in Tallahassee, Florida. In addition to sister Susan Walker, she is survived by sister Virginia Tompkins, brothers Lee Hargrove and Mark Hargrove and by many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is being planned. Funeral arrangements were incomplete at press time.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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