A mainstream songwriter and recording artist since the Fifties, Freddie Hart’s career had gotten so stagnant by the July 1971 release of “Easy Loving” that initial slow sales might have cost him his contract with Capitol Records. But it turned out that Hart, who died October 26th at the age of 91, played a winning hand right as the game was changing from the squeaky clean Nashville Sound to the sexually charged material of Charlie Rich and Conway Twitty.
The steamy tale of a man’s still-burning passion for his wife, paired with Hart’s sultry vocal delivery, resounded with country fans’ increasingly mature sensibilities. It spent three weeks atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and even cracked the pop chart’s Top 20. By November, the single was certified Gold by the RIAA. The industry approved as well: in both 1971 and 1972, it won the CMA Song of the Year award and Hart was named Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 1971.
Hart sustained this career peak on the momentum of “Easy Loving,” racking up five more Number One hits across the next two years and appearing on the charts as late as 1987. The Alabama native’s follow-up hits normally dealt in matters of love or desire and included 1972’s “My Hang-Up Is You” and the tongue-twisting “Got the All Overs for You (All Over Me).”
Beyond looking and living the part as a small-town Southerner and World War II veteran, Hart consistently wrote great songs that dated from his earliest traditional country offerings to the gospel material that took precedent later in his life. Yet, without the greatness — and great timing — of “Easy Loving,” this consistent performer might’ve remained an unsung talent.