Paul Craft was a country songwriter whose tunes were recorded by the top performers of his era, and who, earlier this year, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Craft was known for working in eclectic styles, summoning searing humour and soulful melancholy. Two of his most popular numbers from the 1970s – “Dropkick Me, Jesus” and “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life” – were both nominated in 1977 for the Grammy Award for best country song, although Larry Gatlin’s “Broken Lady” scooped the prize.
Singer Moe Bandy had a hit with “Hank Williams”, an elegy to the celebrated singer-songwriter, and artists including Bobby Bare recorded “Dropkick Me, Jesus”.
“Dropkick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life,” went the song, “End over end, neither left nor to right/ Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights”.
Other hits for Craft included “Brother Jukebox”, recorded by Mark Chesnutt, and “It’s Me Again, Margaret” a tune humorously performed by Ray Stevens about a lewd phone stalker. The Osborne Brothers and the Eagles recorded “Midnight Flyer”, while Willie Nelson and Linda Ronstadt recorded “Keep Me from Blowing Away”.
Craft was born on 12 August 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee, and spent part of his childhood on his family’s farm in Arkansas. He taught himself to play the guitar, the ukulele, the accordion and the harmonica. He was a 1963 graduate of the University of Virginia and served in the Coast Guard before settling in the 1970s in Nashville, where he became known as a go-to talent for songwriting.
Paul Craft, songwriter: born Memphis, Tennessee 12 August 1938; died Nashville, Tennessee 18 October 2014.
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