Joe South, R.I.P.
Singer-songwriter Joe South, who performed hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s such as “Games People Play” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” and also penned songs including “Down in the Boondocks” for other artists, died Wednesday. South was 72.
Early in his career South was best known as a session guitarist (he played on Tommy Roe’s “Sheila,” Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde.
But he had a string of hits of his own starting in the late 1960s that made his booming voice a familiar one on radio stations, with a style that some described as a mix of country and soul.
South was inspired by the social upheaval of the day for “Games People Play,” which became his biggest hit in 1969. “Games People Play” reached No. 12 on the Billboard charts in 1969 and won him two Grammys for Best Contemporary Song and Song of the Year.
He wrote another socially aware number, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes,” which was covered by Elvis Presley; a soulful “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home,” covered by Brook Benton; “Hush” for Deep Purple; “Down in The Boondocks” for Billy Joe Royal; and perhaps biggest of all, the smash “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden,” for Lynn Anderson.
Joe was a prolific album artist as well, he had a bright career in front of him as the 1970s dawned. But in 1971 South’s brother Tommy, who backed Joe on drums, committed suicide and it drove Joe into a deep depression. At the peak of his career South basically quit the music business; although he still lived outside Atlanta and continued to write music, he rarely performed in his later years.