Friday, November 2, 2018

Country Music Obits: Freddie Hart Passes Away at 91

 K.F. Raizor, author of the website Raizor's Edge and the book We Can't Sing and We Ain't Funny: The World of Homer and Jethro is our guest writer today on That Nashville Sound. She's ever so gracious to provide wonderful tributes to honor those to whom the music we treasure just wouldn't be the same without. Thank you, K.F.

The great Freddie Hart has died.

Hart, with a career that went back to the 1950s, died Saturday (10/27) of pneumonia in Burbank, California.

Born Frederick Segrest in 1926, Hart lied about his age and joined the Marines at the age of 14. He saw action in Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II. While in the Marines he also played in NCO clubs to entertain his fellow troops.

Lefty Frizzell is credited with discovering Hart, using the singer/songwriter as an opening act for three years. Despite songwriting success (one of his biggest hits as a songwriter is "Loose Talk," recorded as hits by both Carl Smith and Buck Owens & Rose Maddox) Hart's career as a singer took a long while to get off the ground. He was a regular on the West Coast program Town Hall Party and had some top 30 charted hits (such as "The Key's in the Mailbox"), but nothing to keep him on one label for any extended period of time.

One of my favorite stories in country music lore is Freddie Hart's dismissal from Capitol Records. He recorded a song for them as a single to fulfill his contract, after which the label dropped him. After all, he was in his mid-40s and had never had a hit reach higher than #17 on the country charts (1959's "Chain Gang," no relation to the Sam Cooke song by the same name), so why would Capitol keep him?

The "last" single Hart recorded for Capitol was "Easy Loving." They re-signed him in a big hurry.

"Easy Loving" was a #1 smash in country as well as a top 20 pop song. It also made history: it was the first song to be awarded the CMA "Song of the Year" award two years in a row. (That's only happened two other times, with "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Always On My Mind.")

Additionally, "Easy Loving" was the first of five consecutive #1 hits for Hart. The others included "My Hang-Up Is You," Bless Your Heart," and "Trip to Heaven." In 2004 he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Hart's talents weren't limited to music. He was a black belt in karate and an instructor for the Los Angeles Police Department in self-defense in the late 50s. After his success he founded a school for blind children, a trucking company, and his own publishing company.

Hart continued to perform until the end, appearing in shows earlier this year. His legacy is a long list of songs that will be forever sung by country music fans, including that beautiful award-winning "Easy Loving," no doubt inspired by his wife, who survives him after 61 years of marriage:

Easy loving
Seeing's believing
Life with you's like living
In a beautiful dream

Freddie Hart was 91.


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