|Birth name||Harlan Perry Howard|
September 8, 1927|
|Died||March 3, 2002(aged 74)|
Harlan Perry Howard (September 8, 1927 – March 3, 2002) was a prolific American songwriter, principally in country music. In a career spanning six decades, Howard wrote a large number of popular and enduring songs, recorded by a variety of different artists. Howard was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
Howard was born on September 8, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up on a farm in Kentucky. As a child he listened to the Grand Ole Opry radio show. In later years Howard recalled the personal formative influence of country music:
I was captured by the songs as much as the singer. They grabbed my heart. The reality of country music moved me. Even when I was a kid, I liked the sad songs… songs that talked about true life. I recognized this music as a simple plea. It beckoned me.
Howard completed only nine years of formal education, though he was an avid reader. When he was 12 years of age Harlan began writing songs, "an enthusiasm fueled by an appetite for books and an ear for a telling phrase.”
He did manual labor while writing songs and pushing his finished material. Eventually he sold some of his compositions and, after a few minor successes, his song, "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down", recorded by Charlie Walker, went to No. 2 on the country music charts in late 1958. A year later Ray Price had a major country hit with "Heartaches By The Number"; simultaneously a pop version of the song performed by Guy Mitchell went to No. 1 on the pop chart. Buoyed by these two major hits, Howard moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1960. Bringing along a large portfolio of compositions, he signed a contract with Acuff-Rose Music. Howard's songs were so immediately successful that in 1961 alone he had 15 of his compositions on the country music charts, earning him ten BMI awards. Among his biggest hits was "I Fall to Pieces", co-written with Hank Cochran and recorded by Patsy Cline. Cline also recorded his "He Called Me Baby", which was later a No. 1 C&W hit for Charlie Rich as "She Called Me Baby".
Though not often thought of as a writer of rhythm and blues songs, Howard wrote Joe Simon's #1 R&B chart hit "The Chokin' Kind", a million-selling record in 1969.
He also wrote the classic Kingston Trio song "Everglades", and the song "Busted", originally a hit for both Ray Charles and Johnny Cash and later a hit for John Conlee who used the song to create awareness for Feed the Children. The song "The Wall", also became a hit for Johnny Cash on his studio album, Orange Blossom Special, as well as his Live at Folsom Prison album.
Howard formulated the oft-quoted definition of a great country song: "Three chords and the truth."
- 1961: Harlan Howard Sings Harlan Howard
- 1965: All Time Favorite Country Songwriter
- 1967: Mr. Songwriter
- 1967: Down to Earth
- 1971: To the Silent Majority with Love
- 1981: Singer and Songwriter