Joe South (February 28, 1940 - September 5, 2012) was a highly acclaimed pop/country singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer who became famous during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Born Joseph Alfred Souter in Atlanta, Georgia, he began in the late 1950s as a member of Pete Drake's band, Sons Of The South. Over his long and multifaceted career, South was a prolific session musician, appearing on recordings by such artists as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Simon & Garfunkel, as well as a highly acclaimed songwriter with a long string of mostly self-penned hits who also wrote many songs for other artists in different genres spanning folk, pop/rock, and country. He is best known both as a performer and as a songwriter for the era-defining "Games People Play" (1969), an upbeat yet scathing protest song which won him two Grammys.
South made his debut in 1958 on the Pop/Rock charts with the goofy "The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor," a Halloween-themed novelty tune co-written by The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and R. Johnson. Several minor hits followed during the early 1960s that included "You're The Reason" (1961) and "Birds Of A Feather" (1968). South's fame took off in 1969 with "Games People Play," which became a Top 20 hit. During that same year, Freddy Weller released a country version of this song as his debut single on the Country charts which peaked at #2. With his group, The Believers, South had two more hits with "Don't It Make You Want To Go Home" (1969) and the socially-conscious "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" (1970), which became a Top 20 hit and was also covered by Elvis Presley on his live album, "On Stage" (1970). South's other hits, which continued through 1971, also included "Children" (1970), "Why Does A Man Do What He Has To Do" (1970), and "Fool Me" (1971). He also had a minor hit in 1970 with what would come to be one of his best known songs, "Rose Garden," which was made famous by Lynn Anderson whose version topped the Country charts and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. This smash, which earned Anderson a Grammy, also topped many charts worldwide and remains one of the biggest selling country crossover hits of all time. Other songs penned by South that became top hits for other bands and artists included Billy Joe Royal's "Down In The Boondocks" (1965), Deep Purple's "Hush" (1968), and The Osmonds' "Yo-Yo" (1971).
Joe South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979 and became a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981. He made his final recording in 2009, "Oprah Cried," which was included as a bonus track on the 2010 CD re-release of his albums, "So The Seeds Are Growing" (1971)/"A Look Inside" (1972).
- For more info about Joe South's life and career, visit joesouth.com.
- The Guardian remembers Joe South.
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- Games People Play 1969
(This song later also became a hit for Inner Circle (1994).)
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