The iconic ’70s and ’80s country artist Ronnie Milsap is turning 77 today.
The “It Was Almost Like a Song,” “Smoky Mountain Rain,” and “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World” singer wowed both the country and pop audiences with his crossover hits.
A Master of Many Genres
His music sewed together country, pop, rock, and R&B elements into one iconic sound. He loved Motown and became passionate about country music down the road.
Milsap has 35 No.1 hits and has won six Grammy Awards that landed him into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He also won the Career Achievement Award at the 2006 Country Radio Seminar.
He has sold millions and millions of albums. His landmark is “Almost Like A Song” in 1977, which was his first million-selling single. This is also the song that crossed him into the pop industry and less closely resembled country music.
Ronnie Milsap was almost totally blind at birth due to a congenital disorder. He was abandoned and raised by his grandparents until he eventually went to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina.
He was talented even as a child. His skills on the piano would bring him to Young Harris College. However, his investment in becoming an artist caused him to leave and pursue music full time.
His first single was “Total Disaster” in 1963. Then in 1965 he sang “Never Had It So Good.”
‘The Duets’ and Recent work
Ronnie Milsap has teamed up with artists like Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown during his early career. Most recently, Milsap released his “The Duets” album in 2018.
Here he sings alongside Willie Nelson, George Strait, Dolly Parton, Jason Aldean, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, and Leon Russell.
His debut album didn’t perform exceedingly well on the charts, however, Charley Pride convinced him to move to Nashville to pursue country music instead. Then he released three songs that would land on the charts after signing with RCA Records.
When he first started out Ray Charles had influenced him to stay in the music career. Milsap had just left college and went to a Ray Charles concert and was sitting in the back playing his piano. Charles could tell he loved it and told him to keep playing.
Milsap would tell people back in Raleigh that, “Ray Charles said it was OK for me to become a professional musician.”
Although he said he was retiring a few years back, that has been far from true. Besides his album release, he went on his 76 for 76 Tour in 2019.
Celebrate Ronnie Milsap turning 77 by looking back and listening to some of his old hits and new duets.
Milsap on Slowing Down
Ronnie Milsap is close behind George Strait and Conway Twitty with how many No.1 hits he has. At one point in the ’80s, he even had 11-straight No.1 songs on the radio.
Now, is Milsap slowing down his career and taking things easy? In an interview with Tahoe Onstage, Milsap talked about his well-known moments and his refusal to stop performing.
“The more you use your pipes, the more active you are, the better you will be. I try to stay active all the time. I’m recording next week then I am getting on a Lear jet to get out to Nevada next Thursday,” Milsap said.
Milsap currently lives in Nashville, right by the governor’s mansion.
He has so many hits songs that the biggest part of performing now is knowing what to play. Milsap has talked about just asking what to play and being in tune with his audience.
“A lot of times when you are wondering what they want to hear, ask ‘em. They’ll tell you. The audience is a big part of what you do. Their response spurs a performer to do better than he’d ever thought he was going to. The audience does that for you. They make you better on that night than you thought you were going to be,” he said.