Singer-songwriter Joe South, who wrote Lynn Anderson’s pop crossover hit “Rose Garden,” died Wednesday morning (Sept. 5) in Atlanta at age 72.
Released in 1970, “Rose Garden” spent five weeks at the top of the country chart and became Anderson’s signature song.
As a solo artist, South is best known for his 1969 pop hit “Games People Play,” which received Grammys for best contemporary song and song of the year. Born in Atlanta, he joined steel guitarist Pete Drake’s band in the late ’50s. He worked as a studio guitarist in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Ala., playing on Bob Dylan’s classic Blonde on Blonde album and other sessions for artists ranging from Marty Robbins and Eddy Arnold to Aretha Franklin and Solomon Burke.
One of his songs, “Hush,” was recorded by Billy Joe Royal and later covered by Deep Purple. The British rock band’s version became their first Top 10 hit. South also wrote other hits for Royal, including “Down in the Boondocks” and “I Knew You When.” After a string of solo hits that included “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home” and “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” South went into semi-retirement following his brother’s death in 1971 but briefly returned to the music scene with a new album in 1974.
He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979 and became a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981.