Country Music People December 2018 - Page 62

Obituaries Freddie HART 1926-2018 by Walt Trott S adly, legendary country hitmaker Freddie Hart finally took that Trip To Heaven, a #1 he wrote about back in 1973. Hart, 91, died due to complications from pneumonia, Oct. 27, in Burbank, Calif. The singer-songwriter’s best known for his self-penned, first chart-topper Easy Loving (1971), which became the Country Music Association’s first to cop consecutive CMA Song of the Year honours, in 1971 and ’72. Apart from his music, my main memories of Hart are his gentle manner, abiding faith, and a kindly bear-hug he gave after each visit. A fellow World War II Marine, Hart’s rise to stardom took awhile happening, dating from his first single Butterfly Love (1953), featuring studio backing by Hank Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys. Though it did little to further his vocal career, a year later he lucked out financially when superstar Carl Smith took Freddie’s co-write (with Ann Lucas) Loose Talk up to #1, charting 32 weeks. Others cutting Hart songs have included Porter Wagoner (Skid Row Joe), Patsy Cline (Lovin’ In Vain), George Jones (My Tears Are Overdue) and Kenny Rogers (While the Feeling’s Good). One of Freddie’s former Heartbeat bandsman Buck Owens revived Loose Talk in 1961, as a duet with Rose Maddox, hit #4; and in 1970 covered another Hart hit Togetherness in a duet with Susan Raye (#12). Hart’s writing prowess was rewarded with induction into the 62 cmp - DECEMBER 2018 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. To date, he has yet to be similarly honoured by the Country Music Hall of Fame, though lesser lights have been. Nonetheless, he has been enshrined in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. A howling Frederick Segrest debuted Dec. 21, 1926 in Lochapoka, Ala., one of 15 children born into the sharecropper family of Gertie and William Segrest. Freddie began playing guitar at age 5, the same year his dad died. Unofficially his education ended after the second grade, but at 7 he ran away from home for the first time. During the Great Depression years, he and his siblings worked the fields pickin’ cotton; however, at 12, Freddie fibbed about his age, landing a camp job with President Roosevelt’s CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). “As a result, I’m used to hard labour. It doesn’t bother me,” recalled Hart, in our earlier interview. “Whatever I’ve learned in life has been through experience. There’s been both ups and downs, but if you can just survive, you’ll do all right - and I thank God that I did.” At 15, he lied again about his age, this time to a local recruiter and enlisted in the Marine Corps, as his mom signed for him: “The recruiter didn’t really care, because our family of 10 boys was a great potential source for him.” Eventually, Freddie served overseas in hell-holes like Iwo Jima,