Jim Weatherly, Songwriter Known for ‘Midnight Train to Georgia,’ Dies at 77

by Chris Haney
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On Wednesday, Nashville-based singer and songwriter Jim Weatherly passed away at his home due to natural causes at age 77.

Music Row mogul Charlie Monk confirmed the news to the Tennessean. Weatherly is best known for writing Gladys Knight and the Pips hit “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Additionally, he penned two more of their hits: “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” which was originally recorded by country singer Ray Price.

Born in Pontotoc, MS, Weatherly started writing songs as a teenager and joined a band while attending Ole Miss. In 1962, he led the university’s football team to an undefeated season, an SEC championship, and a national championship all in the same year. The following season in 1963, Weatherly took Ole Miss to another conference championship and won back-to-back SEC titles.

After graduating from college, he chose to pursue a career in music instead of football. By 1973, his work on songs like “Midnight Train to Georgia” had topped the charts. The hit reached No. 1 on the charts and earned Gladys Knight and the Pips a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. Rolling Stone would later rank the song at No. 438 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

On Thursday, Gladys Knight shared a statement with the Jackson Clarion-Ledger about her friend’s passing.

“I’m missing him already,” Knight said of Weatherly. “I love him and always will. He was about life and love and he wrote it so simply, he grew my love for country music. When we were with him it was like we’d always been together, we fit together.  He started playing his guitar, and I started humming and it was magic.

Jim Weatherly and His Legacy in Music

According to the Tennessean, Jim Weatherly also worked with numerous other prominent musical artists. They include Garth BrooksKenny ChesneyGlen Campbell, Neil Diamond, and Kenny Rogers. In addition, he pursued his own solo career as an artist as well.

He released almost a dozen studio albums during the past 50 years. Weatherly’s most successful solo recording was a Top 10 country hit in 1975 called “I’ll Still Love You.” By the 1980s, he had moved to Nashville to continue working with popular country artists and other musicians of the era.

Even more of Weatherly’s songs have been recorded by famous musicians. Glen Campbell’s “Where Shadows Never Fall” and Charley Pride’s “Where Do I Put Her Memory” were both written by Weatherly. So were Kenny Rogers’ “Until Forever’s Gone,” Vince Gill’s “If I Didn’t Have You In My World,” and more.

In 2006, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Weatherly into their hallowed grounds for his major contributions in music.

“When I inducted Jim into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, I said, ‘This may be the most honorable human being I’ve ever known,’” Monk told the Tennessean on Wednesday. “He never had a cigarette in his mouth, he never had a taste of alcohol, he didn’t chew (tobacco), he didn’t cuss. The only cuss word I ever heard him use was ‘Foot! Charlie.’ He probably was one of the top five most talented songwriters to ever drop into this town.”

A private service for family and friends is scheduled for the late singer-songwriter.

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