Songwriter Wayne Carson Dies At 72

Jul 22, 2015
Originally published on July 22, 2015 7:47 am
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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's take a moment now to remember a Grammy-winning songwriter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALWAYS ON MY MIND")

ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Maybe I didn't love you.

MONTAGNE: "Always On My Mind" - it's a song about longing and regret and love. A decade after Elvis Presley recorded it, Willie Nelson made it a hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALWAYS ON MY MIND")

WILLIE NELSON: (Singing) But you were always on my mind.

MONTAGNE: That song was written by Wayne Carson. He died this week from heart failure at the age of 72. NPR's Andrew Limbong remembers the songwriter's other hits.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Before "Always On My Mind," Wayne Carson - born Wayne Carson Thompson - was kicking around Springfield, Mo., just trying to get ahead in the music publishing game. Then in 1966, he hooked up with country singer Eddy Arnold and wrote his first hit song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY LIKE ME")

EDDY ARNOLD: (Singing) Let me tell you, friend, I'm not buttin' in, but I think it's such a sin if you don't treat her right because...

LIMBONG: "Somebody Like Me" - it's a passive-aggressive, I-might-steal-your-girlfriend kind of song. It made it to the top of the country charts. The next year, Carson hit it even bigger. This time, with the help of a gravelly-voiced teenager named Alex Chilton and his band The Box Tops.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LETTER")

THE BOX TOPS: (Singing) Give me a ticket for an airplane. Ain't got time to take a fast train. Lonely days are gone. I'm going home. My baby just wrote me a letter.

LIMBONG: Clocking in at less than two minutes, "The Letter" is a barnburner of a song. Chilton was 16 years old and hungover when he recorded it, and he leans into it with his garage rock intensity. But remember those themes of love and longing? Yeah, that's all here, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LETTER")

THE BOX TOPS: (Singing) Well, she wrote me a letter, said she couldn't live without me no more. Listen, mister, can't you see I've got to get back to my baby once more, anyway, yeah.

LIMBONG: "The Letter" reached number one on the Billboard Top 100 Charts in 1967 and stayed there for four weeks, but that was just The Box Tops's version. The song was a hit again just three years later when Joe Cocker recorded it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LETTER")

JOE COCKER: (Singing) Well, she wrote me a letter (unintelligible).

LIMBONG: Just like "Always On My Mind," Carson's songs tended to live on again and again. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOUL DEEP")

THE BOX TOPS: (Singing) And my love is a river running soul deep. Way down inside me, it's a soul deep. It's too big to hide and it can't be denied. My love is a river running soul deep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.