Country singer Eddy Arnold dies at 89
Last Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2008 | 10:20 AM ET
Country singer Eddy Arnold, shown May 11, 1999, when he announced his retirement after 50 years in show business, has died at age 89. (Brian Jones/Associated Press) Country music superstar Eddy Arnold, a pioneer of the Nashville Sound, has died at age 89.
Belmont University Prof. Don Cusic, Arnold's biographer, said the singer died at a care facility near Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday morning.
His wife of 66 years, Sally, died in March, and shortly afterwards, Arnold fell outside his home, injuring his hip.
Arnold was known for a sound that was a crossover between pop and country, with hits such as Make the World Go Away.
"I sing a little country, I sing a little pop and I sing a little folk, and it all goes together," he said in 1970.
One of the most successful country singers in history, Arnold had a mellow baritone voice, and performed many of his hits with with famed guitarist Chet Atkins.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, he had 28 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country charts, more than any other artist, including It's a Sin in 1947 and Bouquet of Roses in 1948.
Later hits include:
- What's He Doing in My World?
- I Want to Go With You.
- Somebody Like Me.
- Lonely Again.
- Turn the World Around.
A solo star at the Grand Ole Opry by 1943, Arnold successfully made the transition from radio star to television in the 1950s.Eddy Arnold, shown performing in 1959 at Madison Square Garden in New York, had an international hit with Make the World Go Away. (John Lent/Associated Press)
He was criticized by many in the country music establishment for recording Cattle Call and The Richest Man (In the World) with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra in New York.
But Arnold had definite ideas about how to make his music appeal to more people.
"I really had an idea about how I wanted to sing from the very beginning," he said.
Birth of the Nashville Sound
At the Grand Ole Opry, he hired a string-based orchestra for backup and worked with Bill Russell on more sophisticated arrangements.
"I got to thinking, if I just took the same kind of songs I'd been singing and added violins to them, I'd have a new sound," Arnold said. That was the birth of the Nashville sound.
"They cussed me, but the disc jockeys grabbed it…. The artists began to say, 'Aww, he's left us.' Then within a year, they were doing it!"
By the time he retired in 1999, Arnold had sold over 85 million records and had a career spanning 50 years.
Born May 15, 1918, in Henderson, Tenn., Arnold lost both his father and the family farm while he was just 11.
He first appeared on radio in 1936, and struggled to gain recognition until he landed a job as the lead male vocalist for the Pee Wee King band.
Arnold avoided the nasal twang of many country singers and sang from the diaphragm, giving his voice a rich tone that was appealing to a wide audience.
Known in Nashville by the nickname The Tennessee Ploughboy, he made his first recording in 1944 and had his first big hit in 1946 with That's How Much I Love You.
Early in his career, his manager was Col. Tom Parker, who later became Elvis Presley's manager.
A clean-cut image
After Jerry Purcell became his manager in 1964, he began singing with symphony orchestras, performing in Carnegie Hall in New York, Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and other large venues across the U.S.
Make the World Go Away, recorded by several other country artists before Arnold sang it, was an international hit.
His career lasted 50 years in part because he stayed away from drugs or alcohol. His clean-cut image included wearing a tuxedo or other traditional jacket, instead of the glitzy men's wear favoured by other country stars.
"You cannot satisfy all the people," he once said. "They have an image of me. Some people think I'm Billy Graham's half-brother, but I'm not. I want people to get this hero thing off their mind and just let me be me."
Arnold was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966. He also was the first person to receive the Entertainer of the Year Award from the Country Music Association in 1967.
Arnold has donated hundreds of his career-related items to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He is survived by a son and a daughter.With files from the Associated Press
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