NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tom T. Hall, the singer-songwriter who composed “Harper Valley PTA” and sang the Simple Joys of Life as a consummate blue-collar country music bard, has passed away. He was 85 years old.
His son, Dean Hall, confirmed the musician’s death on Friday at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. Known as “The Storyteller” for his simple but incisive lyrics, Hall has composed hundreds of songs.
Along with contemporaries such as Kris Kristofferson, John Hartford and Mickey Newbury, Hall helped usher in a literary era of country music in the early 1970s, with songs of a political nature, such as “Watergate Blues” and “The Monkey That Became President “, deeply personal like” The Year Clayton Delaney Died “, and philosophical like” (Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine “.
“In all of my writings, I have never passed judgment,” he said in 1986. “I think it’s my secret. I’m a witness. I watch everything and don’t decide if it’s is good or bad. “
Singer-songwriter Jason Isbell performed Hall’s song “Mama Bake A Pie (Daddy Kill A Chicken)” when Hall was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.
“The simplest words that told the most complicated stories. I felt like Tom T. just grabbed the songs as they floated, but I know he carved them out of rock,” said Isbell tweeted on Friday.
Hall, the fourth son of an ordained minister, was born near Olive Hill, Ky., In a log cabin built by his grandfather. He started playing guitar at the age of 4 and wrote his first song at the age of 9.
Hall started out playing in a bluegrass band, but when that didn’t work out he started working as a disc jockey in Morehead, Kentucky. He joined the United States Army in 1957 for four years, including a posting to Germany. He turned to writing on his return to the United States and was discovered by Nashville editor Jimmy Key.
Hall moved to Nashville in 1964 and first established himself as a songwriter earning $ 50 per week. He wrote songs for Jimmy C. Newman, Dave Dudley, and Johnny Wright, but he had so many songs that he started recording them himself. The middle initial “T” was added when he got his recording contract to make the name catchier.
His breakthrough was to write “Harper Valley PTA”, a 1968 international hit on small town hypocrisy recorded by Jeannie C. Riley. The song about a mother telling a group of busy people to go about their own business was witty and spirited and went on to become a No. 1 country and pop hit. It has sold millions of copies. and Riley won a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and an award for Single of the Year from the Country Music Association. The story was so popular that it even spawned a movie of the same name and a TV series.
“Suddenly it was the talk of the country,” Hall told The Associated Press in 1986. “It became a slogan. You would turn the dial on the radio and hear it four or five times in 10 minutes. It was the most impressive time of my life; I caused all this commotion. “
His own career took off after this song and he had a string of hits with “Ballad of Forty Dollars” (which was also recorded by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings); her first No. 1 career hit “A Week in a Country Jail” and “Homecoming” in the late 1960s.
Throughout the 1970s, Hall became one of Nashville’s greatest singer-songwriters, with several hit songs including “I Love”, https://www.hotsr.com/news/2021/ aug / 22 / country-singer-tom- t-hall-dies-composed-harper / “Country Is,” https://www.hotsr.com/news/2021/aug/22/country-singer-tom-t -hall-dies-composed-harper / “I Care”, https://www.hotsr.com/news/2021/aug/22/country-singer-tom-t-hall-dies-composed-harper/ “J ‘loves beer “and” Faster Horses (The Cowboy and The Poet.) “He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978.
“Tom T. Hall’s masterpieces vary in plot, tone and tempo, but they are bound by his relentless and unyielding empathy for the triumphs and losses of others,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in a statement. . “He wrote without judgment or anger, delivering a rhyming journalism from the heart that sets his compositions apart from any other writer.
He also wrote children’s songs on his records “Songs of Fox Hollow (for Children of All Ages)” in 1974 and “Country Songs for Kids” in 1988. He also became an author, writing a book on songwriting. songs, “The Songwriter’s Handbook”, and an autobiography, “The Storyteller’s Nashville”, as well as fiction novels.
He was the host of the TV show “Pop Goes the Country” from 1980 to 1983 and even got interested in politics. Hall was close to former President Jimmy Carter and Carter’s brother Billy when Carter was in the White House. Tennessee Democrats urged Hall to run for governor in 1982, but he refused.
For his 1985 album “Songs in a Seashell”, he spent six months scouring southern beaches to find inspiration for the LP’s summer vibe.
He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and in 2012 he was honored as the BMI Icon of the Year, with artists including the Avett brothers, bluegrass stars Daily & Vincent, Toby Keith and Justin Townes Earle paying homage to the songwriting legend.
“I think a song is just a song,” Hall said at the ceremony in 2012. “They can do it with all kinds of different bands. It’s just lyrics and a melody. to Kris Kristofferson one time. They asked him what was country, and he said, ‘If that sounds country, it’s country.’ So that’s my philosophy. “
He married English songwriter Dixie Deen in 1968, and the two wrote hundreds of bluegrass songs after Hall retired from performing in the 1990s, including “All That’s Left” which Miranda Lambert took over. on his 2014 album, “Platinum”. “Dixie Hall passed away in 2015.
In 2015, music legend Bob Dylan singled out Hall for harsh criticism in a rambling speech at a MusiCares event. He called Hall’s song, “I Love,” https://www.hotsr.com/news/2021/aug/22/country-singer-tom-t-hall-dies-composed-harper/ “a bit overcooked, “and said Kristofferson’s arrival in Nashville” turned the world of former Tom T. Hall upside down. “
The review apparently confused Hall, as he viewed Kristofferson as a friend and peer, and when asked about Dylan’s comments in a 2016 article for “American Songwriter” magazine, he replied: ” What was all this? “
FILE – In this file photo from July 16, 1977, singer Tom T. Hall leans from the edge of the Jamboree in the Hills stage to meet people near St. Clairsville, Ohio. Singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall, who composed & # x201c; Harper Valley PTA & # x201d; and sang about the simple joys of life as country music & # x2019; s consummate blue-necked bard, died. He was 85 years old. His son, Dean Hall, confirmed the musician’s death on Friday, August 20, 2021 at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. (AP Photo / File)
FILE – In this April 1996 file photo, country music legend Tom T. Hall poses for a photo at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. Singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall, who composed & # x201c; Harper Valley PTA & # x201d; and sang about the simple joys of life as country music’s accomplished blue collar bard, died. He was 85 years old. His son, Dean Hall, confirmed the musician’s death on Friday, August 20, 2021 at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. (AP Photo / Mark Humphrey, File)