Songwriter Joe South died September 5 at his home in Atlanta at the age of 72, reports the Tennessean. A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Joe is known for hits such as “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden,” “Games People Play,” “Down in the Boondocks” and “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home.”
Born Joseph Alfred Souter in Atlanta, Joe began his writing career while still a teenager, joining Roger Miller and Jerry Reed in Pete Drake’s band in 1957. He moved to Nashville in the early 1960s where he became a highly regarded session musician, playing on projects for Bob Dylan, Marty Robbins, Eddy Arnold and more.
In addition to writing hit songs for others, he also sought success as a solo artist. He achieved that with “Games People Play” in 1969. The song became a Top 20 pop hit and won GRAMMY awards for Best Contemporary Song and Song of the Year. Joe was inspired to write the song by a psychology book written by Eric Berne.
He followed “Games People Play” with “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home,” a Top 40 hit on the country charts, and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes,” a Top 20 all-genre hit. Lynn Anderson recorded Joe’s “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden” in 1970 and it went on to be a worldwide hit and earned another GRAMMY.
While he was enjoying professional success in the late 60’s and early 70’s, he was also battling substance abuse. His brother’s suicide sent him into depression. “I really kicked myself around for years,” he once told the Christian Science Monitor.
Joe released his final album, You’re The Reason, in 1976 and went into semi-retirement. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2003.