David Olney

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David Olney
Birth nameDavid Charles Olney
Born(1948-03-23)March 23, 1948
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
DiedJanuary 18, 2020(2020-01-18) (aged 71)
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, U.S.
Years active1971–2020
Strictly Music

David Charles Olney (March 23, 1948 – January 18, 2020) was an American folk singer-songwriter.[1] Olney recorded more than twenty albums over his five-decade career. His songs have been covered by numerous artists, including Emmylou Harris, Del McCoury, Linda Ronstadt and Steve Earle.[2][3]


Olney was born on March 23, 1948, in Providence, Rhode Island.[4] After briefly attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he joined Bland Simpson's band Simpson.[5][6] They recorded one album in New York in 1971. The next year he relocated to Atlanta and in 1973 moved to Nashville with the hope of selling his material to record labels.[7][8]

In the early 1980s, he formed the band The X-Rays, which recorded two albums for Rounder Records. The group appeared on Austin City Limits, opened for major acts, including Elvis Costello, and broke up in 1985.[9]

Over the following decades, Olney performed as a solo singer-songwriter, releasing more than 20 albums including six live recordings. He collaborated with artists such as John Hadley and Sergio Webb.[10] His songs were covered by and co-written with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Young, Del McCoury, and Laurie Lewis, among many others.[6]

Olney was a key member of Nashville's music community. The Rhode Island native was a compelling and enigmatic presence in Music City. He wrote sonnets and starred at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and his live concerts blended tenderness and ferocity, theatre and sincerity, agitation and embrace.[11]

Personal life and death[edit]

Olney resided in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife Regine,[8] with whom he had a son, Redding, and a daughter, Lillian.[8][12] Olney formed a mutual admiration with Townes Van Zandt when he began his solo career.[13] Van Zandt bought Olney a sport coat from a Goodwill store in Little Rock.[14]

Olney died of an apparent heart attack during a performance onstage at the 30A Songwriter Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, on January 18, 2020, at the age of seventy-one.[6][8][15] He was in the middle of his third song when he stopped, apologized and shut his eyes, according to fellow musician Scott Miller, who was accompanying Olney.[16][3][15]


Solo albums[edit]

  • 1986: Eye of the Storm (Philo / Rounder)[13]
  • 1989: Deeper Well (Philo)[13]
  • 1991: Roses (Philo)[5]
  • 1991: Top to Bottom (Appaloosa)
  • 1992: Border Crossing (SilenZ Records)
  • 1994: Ache of Longing (Roadsongs)
  • 1994: Live in Holland (Strictly Country Records)[17]
  • 1995: High, Wide and Lonesome (Philo / Rounder)
  • 1997: Real Lies (Philo)[18]
  • 1999: Through a Glass Darkly (Philo / Rounder)
  • 1999: Ghosts in the Wind: Live at La Casa, Michigan (Barbed)
  • 2000: Omar's Blues (Dead Reckoning)
  • 2002: Women Across the River: Live in Holland (Strictly Country Records)[17]
  • 2003: The Wheel (Loud House)
  • 2004: Illegal Cargo: Live in Holland (Strictly Country Records)[17]
  • 2005: Migration (Loud House)
  • 2006: Lenora: Live in Holland (Strictly Country Records)
  • 2007: One Tough Town (Red Parlor)[13]
  • 2008: Live at Norm's River Roadhouse, Volume 1 (Deadbeat) with Sergio Webb and Jack Irwin
  • 2009: Ol' Diz: A Musical Baseball Story. A Songwriters' Work in Progress (Deadbeet) with John Hadley
  • 2010: Dutchman's Curve (Deadbeet / Continental Song City)[17]
  • 2012: Body of evidence (Deadbeet) collects the EPs Film Noir, The Stone, and Robbery & Murder as a 3-CD box set
  • 2013: Predicting The Past: Introducing Americana Music Vol.2 (Rootsy) [Two discs. Disc 2: retrospective 2000–2012, all previously released]
  • 2014: Sweet Poison (Strictly Country Records) available at shows starting Nov. 2013, generally released in Jan. 2014
  • 2014: When the Deal Goes Down" (Deadbeet)
  • 2016: Holiday in Holland DVD + CD (Strictly Country Records) with Sergio Webb
  • 2017: Don't Try to Fight It (Red Parlor)
  • 2018: This Side or the Other (Black Hen Music)

Solo EPs[edit]

  • 2011: Film Noir (Deadbeet)
  • 2012: The Stone (Deadbeet)
  • 2012: Robbery & Murder (Deadbeet)

With Anana Kaye[edit]

  • 2021: "Whispers and Sighs" (Schoolkids Records)

With Bland Simpson[edit]

  • 1971: Simpson

With the X-rays[edit]

With Nashville Jug Band[edit]


  • 2014: "When the Deal Comes Down"[19]

As composer[edit]

  • 1985: Mike CrossSolo at Midnight (Sugar Hill) – track 5, "Georgia May"
  • 1985: Mimi FariñaSolo (Philo) – track 5, "If My Eyes Were Blind"
  • 1986: Steve YoungLook Homeward Angel (Mill) – track 3, "If My Eyes Were Blind"
  • 1993: Emmylou HarrisCowgirl's Prayer (Warner Bros. – track 8, "Jerusalem Tomorrow"
  • 1995: Emmylou HarrisWrecking Ball (Elektra / Asylum) – track 6, "Deeper Well" co-written with Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris
  • 1995: Linda RonstadtFeels Like Home (Elektra – track 9, "Women Cross the River"
  • 1996: Garnet RogersNight Drive ([Snow Goose) – track 6, "Love's Been Linked To The Blues"
  • 1999: Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou HarrisWestern Wall: The Tucson Sessions (Asylum) – track 5, "1917"
  • 2006: Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch, and Fats Kaplin – '"Lost John Dean (Compass – track 5, "Postcard From Mexico" (co-written with John Hadley); track 8, "Mr Bones" (co-written with Claudia Scott, John Hadley, and Kevin Welch)
  • 2006: Slaid CleavesUnsung (Rounder) – track 7, "Millionaire"
  • 2007: Mae Robertson – Dream (Lyric Partners) – track 14: "Dream a Dream" co-written with Carol Elliott
  • 2008: Eric Brace and Peter Cooper – You Don't Have to Like Them Both (Red Beet / CoraZong) – track 2, "Omar's Blues #2"
  • 2008: Tim O'BrienChameleon (Howdy Skies) – track 3, "The Garden"; track 7, "Chameleon"; track 12, "When In Rome" (all co-written with John Hadley and Tim O'Brien
  • 2009: Del McCouryBy Request (McCoury Music) – track 11, "Queen Anne's Lace"
  • 2009: Pascal Briggs – The Mercenary (Drumming Monkey) – track 3, "Millionaire"
  • 2009: Kieran KaneSomewhere Beyond the Roses (Compass / Dead Reckoning) – track 8, "I Took My Power Back" (co-written with Kieran Kane)
  • 2009: The Wailin' JennysLive at the Mauch Opera House (Red House) – track 1, "Deeper Well" co-written with Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris
  • 2011: Annika Fehling – Fireflies (Rootsy) – track 12, "I Know Better" (co-written with Annika Fehling)
  • 2012: Rocky HillLone Star Legend (Floating World) – track 1, "Take A Message To Garcia"; track 2, "Go Down Dupree", Track 7, "Charleston Knife"
  • 2014: Rory McNamara – The Ring Of Truth Trio – Dangerous Business – (Rolltop Discs) – track 4 – "Walk Downtown".

As guest musician[edit]



  1. ^ "David Olney". Discogs. Portland, Oregon: Zink Media, Inc. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  2. ^ Iati, Marisa (January 19, 2020). "A singer-songwriter apologized, closed his eyes, dropped his head and died onstage". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Friskics-Warren, Bill (January 20, 2020). "David Olney, 71, Singer-Songwriter, Dies After Apparent Heart Attack Onstage". The New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  4. ^ Atkinson 2011, p. 82.
  5. ^ a b Hudak, Joseph (January 19, 2020). "David Olney, Poetic Americana Songwriter, Dead at 71". Rolling Stone. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b c Haring, Bruce (January 19, 2020). "David Olney Dies: Prolific Musician, Composer, Cinematographer Was 71, Passed On Stage". Deadline Hollywood. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Hall, Russell (February 28, 2003). "David Olney – Character study". No Depression. United States: FreshGrass Foundation. Retrieved April 24, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ a b c d Paulson, Dave (January 19, 2020). "Nashville singer-songwriter David Olney dies at 71 after performance". The Tennessean. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Galipault, Gerry (October 30, 1997). "The resurrection of David Olney". Pause & Play. San Diego: Pause & Play, Inc. Retrieved April 24, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Waters, T. Wayne (June 18, 2010). "David Olney: Literate, Rabble-Rousing Troubadour". American Songwriter. United States: ForASong Media, LLC. Retrieved April 24, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "David Olney". davidolney.com. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  12. ^ Willman, Chris (January 19, 2020). "Singer David Olney Dies During Performance at Florida's 30A Festival". Variety. United States: Variety Media, LLC. (Penske Media Corporation). Retrieved January 19, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Atkinson 2011, p. 83.
  14. ^ Atkinson 2011, p. 85.
  15. ^ a b Variety Staff (January 19, 2020). "Singer-songwriter David Olney dies on stage during performance at Florida festival". NBC News. New York City: NBC. Variety. Retrieved January 19, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ Peters, Michelle (January 19, 2020). "David Olney, Nashville Singer-Songwriter, Dies Onstage at 71". Billboard. United States: Billboard-Hollywood Media Group (Valence Media). Retrieved January 20, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ a b c d Atkinson 2011, p. 84.
  18. ^ Real Lies. Philo Records. Ferrisburgh, Vermont: Rounder Records. October 9, 2009. ASIN B0000003WM. Retrieved January 20, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ "Future Releases on Triple A (AAA) Radio Stations". Allaccess.com. Malibu, California: All Access Music Group. Archived from the original on June 21, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)


External links[edit]