Songwriter Alex Harvey, whose hits included Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn” and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition’s “Reuben James,” died Saturday (April 4) according to a Facebook post by his wife. The place and cause of death were not revealed. Harvey, who was also an actor and singer, was 73.
Born Thomas Alexander Harvey in Dyersburg, Tennessee, on March 10, 1947, Harvey was equally influenced by country music and rhythm and blues. He earned his master’s degree in music from Murray State University in Kentucky in 1969 and soon after began to seriously pursue songwriting.
After successfully pitching “Reuben James” to Rogers, who scored both a minor pop and country hit with it, Harvey moved to Los Angeles. There he teamed with Larry Collins to write “Delta Dawn.” It became young Tanya Tucker’s first country hit, reaching No. 5 in 1972. The song has been recorded by Waylon Jennings, Bette Midler, Helen Reddy, and many others.
Tucker released the following statement: “I don’t guess I’d given a lot of thought to what my life would have been without the great song, ’Delta Dawn.’ But this morning I started thinking about it a lot with the passing of songwriter Alex Harvey. The song started everything off for me and has kept me going ever since. Even though my record was released in March of 1972, the song is still just as great 48 years later! I am so sad today with tears flowing. I thank God for him, his song, my life, my career and my fans — as I find myself grateful and thankful knowing my life would have been so different without the iconic ’Delta Dawn’ and her creator Alex Harvey. I know Alex was a man of God, and today he got his wings, to that mansion in the sky! Thank you, Alex. I’ll meet you there someday, when it’s my time to fly!”
Harvey studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse for four years. He won his first major role acting in a 1982 TV movie, The Long Summer of George Adams, starring James Garner. Garner was a early mentor and friend to Harvey, encouraging him in both this musical and acting ventures.
Among Harvey’s other hits and well-known songs were “Baby, Baby I Know You’re a Lady” (David Houston), “Hell and High Water” (T. Graham Brown), “Rings” (Lobo), “Makin’ Music for Money” (Jimmy Buffett), and “Somebody New” (Billy Ray Cyrus).
Harvey acted in several TV series, including The Dukes of Hazzard, Dallas and Walker, Texas Ranger. He also had roles in the movies Gettysburg and Fire Down Below, the 1997 film which featured such other musical luminaries as Kris Kristofferson, Levon Helm, Mark Collie, Randy Travis and Travis Tritt.