Hank Cochran, the famed Nashville songwriter whose classic songs were recorded by Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline, George Jones and George Strait, among many other country artists, died Thursday (July 15) at his home in Hendersonville, Tenn., from pancreatic cancer. He was 74.
Born in Mississippi, Cochran moved to Nashville in 1959 and emerged as one of country music’s most popular songwriters of the 1960s, earning cuts with Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away” and “I Want to Go With You,” Cline’s “She’s Got You” and “I Fall to Pieces,” Jones’ “You Comb Her Hair,” Johnny Paycheck’s “A-11,” Ray Price’s “A Way to Survive” and “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me,” Jim Reeves’ “I’d Fight the World” and Ernest Tubb’s “Through That Door.” Cochran and longtime friend Willie Nelson also co-wrote “Undo the Right,” a Top 10 hit in 1968 for Johnny Bush.
Cochran notched three Top 30 hits as a solo artist in the early 1960s with “Sally Was a Good Old Girl,” “I’d Fight the World” and “A Good Country Song.” Meanwhile, his compositions led to Grammy awards for Burl Ives’ “Funny Way of Laughin'” in 1962 and Jeannie Seely’s “Don’t Touch Me” in 1966. He and Seely were married from 1969 to 1979.
In the 1970s, his notable cuts included Merle Haggard’s “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)” and Loretta Lynn’s “Why Can’t He Be You,” a remake from Cline’s catalog. Cochran also released duets with Haggard in 1978 and Nelson in 1980, though none of the recordings cracked the Top 40. He was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1974.
In the mid-1980s, he enjoyed success with Strait’s “The Chair” (which Cochran co-wrote with Dean Dillon) and “Ocean Front Property” (co-written by Cochran, Dillon and Royce Porter). Another Cochran-Dillon-Porter collaboration, “Miami, My Amy,” was Keith Whitley’s first Top 20 country hit, released in 1985.
Cochran often co-wrote with traditional singer Vern Gosdin in the 1980s, and the partnership was rewarded with hits like “Set ’Em Up Joe,” “Who You Gonna Blame It On This Time,” “Right in the Wrong Direction,” “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” and “Is It Raining at Your House.” Other hit singles from that era include Mickey Gilley’s “That’s All That Matters” and Ronnie Milsap’s rendition of “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me.”
Haggard, Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack were among the country artists at a surprise party for Cochran at Nashville’s BMI offices in June 2009, as he was honored for his 50th anniversary as a songwriter. The night before he died, Cochran sang songs at his home with Johnson, Billy Ray Cyrus and frequent co-writer Buddy Cannon.
A private memorial and a public service are being planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.