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‘Rose Garden’ Songwriter Joe South Dead at 72

Joe South

Grammy Award-winning songwriter Joe South has died. The popular singer, songwriter and studio musician wrote for hitmakers like Lynn Anderson, Elvis Presley and Billy Joe Royal after charting his own hit with ‘Games People Play’ in 1969. He had been in failing health, according to MusicRow.com.

Different sources report different ages for South when he passed on Wednesday morning (September 5), but JoeSouth.com lists him as being born in 1940. He was born Joe Souter in Atlanta, Ga. and quickly got a start in the music business, working a radio show at WYST at just 12 years old. His first hit song came as a teenager with the novelty hit ‘The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor’ in 1958.

‘Games People Play became an international hit that earned South a Grammy for Song of the Year. Later, he’d chart ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’ with the Believers, but by the early ’70s he’d become a hot songwriter. His ‘(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden’ was nominated for Grammys in 1970, and it helped earn singer Lynn Anderson a CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. South also wrote ‘Hush,’ a Top 10 hit for Deep Purple in 1968.

South was a successful Nashville studio musician before he gave it all up in the early ’70s. His brother Tommy’s suicide rattled him, and he retreated to Hawaii, not truly emerging again until the ’90s. In 1979, South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is also in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

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