Dobie Gray Passes Away

December 13, 2011 by Amy Gold

Dobie Gray, 1973
Dobie Gray, 1973

Singer-songwriter Dobie Gray (July 26, 1940 - December 6, 2011) died at age 71 at his home in Nashville, TN on Tuesday, December 6, 2011. A highly versatile singer, Gray's style was a unique blend of soul, R&B, country, and soft rock. He is most famous for his 1973 smash hit, "Drift Away," which peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although this song has been covered by numerous artists since then, Gray's version is the best known by far, and this song is a longtime staple on oldies music stations. In 2003, a cover version which became a Top 10 hit was released by Uncle Kracker featuring Gray singing the final verse. Dobie Gray's other hits also included "The 'In' Crowd" (1965), "Loving Arms" (1973), and "You Can Do It" (1979). He also had several hits on the Country charts in the 1980s.

Dobie Gray was born Lawrence Darrow Brown (according to some sources) on July 26, 1940 in Simonton, TX, into a family of sharecroppers. His grandfather, a Baptst minister, was a major musical influence and introduced him to gospel music. In the early 1960s, Gray moved to Los Angeles and met Sonny Bono who reportedly was the one who nicknamed him "Dobie" (after the TV character, Dobie Gillis). It was largely through Bono, then A&R manager for Specialty Records, that he got his start as a recording artist.

In the late 1960s, Gray performed in the long-running smash musical, "Hair." He also lent his distinctive voice to many soundtracks, including "Uptown Saturday Night," "Casey’s Shadow," "The Commitment," and Dick Clark’s teen musical extravaganza, "Out Of Sight." Throughout his over-four decade career, he composed music for movies and TV, penned many songs, and continued recording and touring to well into the new millenium.

As Gray put it, My goal is to create the kind of music that makes memories for my audience - music that they will want to revisit time and again. Songs from the heart! In his long and distinguished career, Dobie Gray has amassed a great many fans, and he will remain beloved by oldies and other music lovers alike for many years to come.