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Singer-Songwriter Joe South Dead at 72

Wrote for Elvis Presley; played on Dylan's 'Blonde on Blonde'

September 7, 2012 10:10 AM ET
joe south
Joe South
Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images

Singer-songwriter Joe South – who penned tunes for Elvis Presley; played on landmark recordings by Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin; and wrote hits including the Grammy-winning "Games People Play" and "(I Never Promised You) A Rose Garden" – has died at 72 after a heart attack, the BBC reports.

South was born Joseph Souter on February 28th, 1940, in Atlanta. He began playing guitar at 11, and was just 17 when he joined Nashville producer Pete Drake's band in 1957. South became a studio musician, meeting artists like Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan and Franklin, and began to seriously write songs that blended country and pop with a hint of psychedelia in the Sixties.

He recorded with Dylan on his 1966 classic Blonde on Blonde, played on Franklin's 1967 single "Chain of Fools" and saw Elvis Presley sing his "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" on Presley's' 1970 live album On Stage. South's track "Hush" later became a hit for Deep Purple, and he won two Grammys in 1969 for his single "Games People Play." South's biggest hit came in 1971 when Lynn Anderson covered "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden)." 

South took several years off after the suicide of his brother Tommy. He made a brief return in 1975 with a new album, Midnight Rainbows, but walked away from the industry soon afterwards. Drug abuse hampered his career, and South's first marriage ended in divorce. He eventually went to rehab before marrying for a second time in 1987.

A funeral service will be held Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia.

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