Country Music & the Late Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett
June 26, 2009 — Celebrity deaths, it’s been said, come in threes, and that was certainly true this week with the passing of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon.
They were not country figures, but each of them had a small level of influence on the genre. And in the middle of their much-covered deaths, the loss of songwriter Tim Krekel — who authored a pair of hits — was overshadowed.
The roll call:
• The controversial Michael Jackson never appeared on the country chart on his own, though the mass collection of stars known as U.S.A. For Africa did show up in 1985 with the benefit record "We Are The World." It put the Gloved One in the studio with country stars Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers. Michael’s pop hit "She’s Out Of My Life" was also covered with minor success in 1980 by Johnny Duncan & Janie Fricke, who altered the title to "He’s Out Of My Life." And Michael was married during the mid 1990s to Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of Country Music Hall of Famer Elvis Presley.
"I grew up listening to him and in fact I used to moon walk down the hallway in school when I was in the sixth grade," Jimmy Wayne told The Gaston Gazette. "I just can't believe it. We have now experienced a day like my Mom explained to me the world experienced when Elvis died."
• The Texas-born Farrah Fawcett became a pin-up star in the late 1970s after gaining fame through her role on "Charlie’s Angels." Two months after the show left prime time — and several years after Farrah left the series — she got referenced in the Bellamy Brothers’ single "You’re My Favorite Star." That song also mentioned Elvis and Brigitte Bardot while David and Howard Bellamy firmly planted tongue in cheek with the line "I’m beggin’ Dolly’s pardon if I’m hurtin’ Charley’s pride."
"Farrah Fawcett is a legend," said Wynonna Thursday in a statement. "It just seems impossible to me that she is gone. I just saw her smiling face on TV last night and today found out that she is no longer with us. She fought so long and hard. I admire her strength and her willing spirit. What a gift she gave to us all. She will be deeply missed."
• Ed McMahon worked with plenty of country stars who were paraded across the stage of "The Tonight Show" when he was the sidekick of the legendary Johnny Carson. Ed also hosted the 1980s talent series "Star Search," which was in many ways a predecessor to "American Idol." Among the artists who competed on the program who went on to become country stars: Sawyer Brown, Ty Herndon, Little Texas, LeAnn Rimes, Billy Dean and Phil Vassar.
• Tim Krekel died Wednesday of cancer at his home in Louisville, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal. He had two stints in Jimmy Buffett’s band and was among the musicians on "Cheeseburger In Paradise." He also wrote Crystal Gayle’s 1984 No. 1 hit "Turning Away" and Patty Loveless’ 1996 No. 1 "You Can Feel Bad."
• A memorial service for record producer and keyboard player Barry Beckett has been set for July 12 at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. Barry produced hits by Lorrie Morgan, Kenny Chesney and Neal McCoy and played on Dolly Parton’s "Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That," Paul Simon’s "Kodachrome" and Rosanne Cash’s "The Way We Make A Broken Heart."
• Violinist Lillian Vann Hunt died at age 95 in Nashville last month, according to The Tennessean. Her first love was classical music, and she was a founding member of the Nashville Symphony. But she also took part in the string sections that backed numerous classic country recordings, including Lynn Anderson’s "Rose Garden," Johnny Cash’s "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and Kris Kristofferson’s "Why Me."
• Symphony violinist Cate Myer died at age 49 on June 5, The Tennessean reported. As a member of the studio ensemble the Nashville String Machine, she contributed to Keith Urban’s "Everybody," Carrie Underwood’s "Just A Dream" and Lee Ann Womack’s "A Little Past Little Rock."