Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Day the Music Died #25YearsAgo

We all have singers whose music touches us so deeply that when they pass away it feels like a personal loss. For me, that loss occurred 25 years ago today - Saturday morning, June 5, 1993 - when I heard the shocking news on the radio that Conway Twitty had died of a ruptured abdominal aneurysm at only 59. I think my own heart stopped in disbelief. Knowing I wouldn't be seeing him in concert 3 months later as I'd planned was devastating, and what made it even more hard to comprehend is the fact that I had lost an aunt to the exact same thing a mere 2 weeks before on May 22. (Then on July 4th my dad had his first heart attack. Let's just say 1993 was a really bad year.)


I've been feeling incredibly emotional about this somber anniversary for a number of weeks now in a way that's caught me off guard. I remember that horrible day as though it were yesterday, and I just can't believe he's been gone for so long. I've been in love with Conway since the very first time I heard him as a little girl. His voice gives me goosebumps - always has, always will. From a throaty growl to a sensual whisper to a throbbing crescendo, there's isn't anything he couldn't do. In my eyes, he's pure perfection in every way.

I found it very appropriate that the theme of this week's Mewsic Moves Me blog hop is the hit songs of crossover artists, because Conway was the ultimate crossover artist. He didn't "cross over" with a song or two, he crossed over his entire career! Many people might not know or remember that for his first 10 years in the music business he was a teen idol on the rock scene! It's Only Make Believe was by far his biggest single during this time, becoming a hit in 22 different countries and selling over 8 million copies. (Fun fact: many people thought Elvis was singing the song under an alias!)



This is my favorite version of It's Only Make Believe from a TV show in 1990. His voice just got better with age. (I could listen to him talk all day too, but the song starts at 3:20.)



By 1965 Conway decided to follow his heart and venture into the world of country music even though he was told he was crazy attempting to start his career over from scratch. Many country radio stations refused to play him because he was known as a rock singer but in July 1968 he had his first top 5 country hit, The Image of Me, followed closely by his first #1 country song, Next in Line, in November. 1969 brought a string of more top 5's and #1's, and then in 1970 came Conway's signature song and one of country music's most recognized masterpieces, Hello Darlin'...



In 1973 Conway stirred up a bit of controversy with the steamy (for it's time) You've Never Been This Far Before. In spite of being banned by many radio stations due to its "racy" lyrics it ended up being his only country song to cross over onto the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number 22.



After firmly establishing himself as a country music superstar he showed his incredibly versatility by regularly crossing back over, taking well-known pop songs and turning them into country smashes, including The Eagles' Heartache Tonight, Bette Midler's The Rose, Lionel Ritchie's Three Times A Lady, and the Pointer Sisters' Slow Hand...



So did Conway make the right decision by crossing over from rock to country? Over the course of his country career that spanned 28 years he earned 55 #1 hits, putting him second on the all-time list in all genres of music behind only George Strait. That's more #1's than Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Sinatra, Madonna, anyone. He had #1 records in 5 different decades, from the '50s to the '90s...who else can claim that? Who would ever be able to do that today? His level of greatness will never be seen again.



In the years since he's been gone his legend has only grown, being posthumously inducted into both the Rockabilly and Country Music Hall of Fame. He has even been introduced to a new generation of fans thanks to Family Guy!

His peers honored him with the title "High Priest of Country Music." He was called "the best friend a song ever had." And he will always hold the key to this country girl's heart.

18 comments:

  1. Purrs to you - my human actually feels the same way a lot about David Bowie. His music meant a lot to her, and she was devastated when he died, and no one other than those close to him even knew he was sick.

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  2. Melissa,

    How very interesting I had no idea that Conway started out performing rock mewsic! He does sound a bit like Elvis so I see why folks thought it was the King singing, "It's Only Make Believe". I do recall quite well some of his controversial songs. It's hard to believe how quickly the years have gone by since his passing but life doesn't slow down. We have good memories tied up in the songs of our favorite singers and in that way, they live forever in the heart and mind. Thanks for sharing such great classics from the late "High Priest of Country Mewsic"! Purrs and mews to you! ;)

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  3. "It's Only Make Believe" is one of my favorites. Oddly, I didn't know Conway started in rock music either. I think I'll always remember him most for those two words, "Hello, Darlin'." :)

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  4. You know your Conway, Melissa! I’m a country girl and didn’t know all this. It doesn’t seem possible it’s been 25 years, since his passing.

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  5. I still love "It's Only Make Believe" and I'll pull up a Conway song from different eras on Youtube regularly. I've always listened to all sorts of music, and I always liked it when I heard someone cross over, it wasn't so difficult back then when radio stations played a bigger mix of music.

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  6. Too bad you never got to meet him. On June 3, 2003, TW's friend Joe who was lead singer for one of her favorite local bands, Winter Hours, ODed. She misses both he and his music so much it hurts. His music will always be a part of her. Of course today is also the 50th anniversary of the day Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.

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  7. My dad and I were just talking about Conway Twitty yesterday, and my dad was telling me how Conway started out in rock and pop. I did not know that. I also did not realize today was the anniversary of his death. Hugs to you.

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  8. He is a true country and music legend. I didn't realize that it has been 25 years since his dead.

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  9. Hold the fond memories in your heart!

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  10. Wow. I haven't seen a record for YEARS! What a talented performer ... I can only imagine how amazing it would've been to see him in person!

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  11. Wonderful tribute to a great singer.

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  12. Conway Twitty was an amazing performer. SO talented. I can't believe it's been 25 years since he passed!

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  13. Great tribute! I feel the same way about Elvis Presley, John Lennon and George Michael.

    I was very young when Elvis and John passed away but I still remember the day so clearly. And of course, George's death is still very recent and I still can't believe he is gone.

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  14. Mom has enjoyed his songs over the years. She didn't know he started out singing rock music until she read your post. His music will continue to inspire the world. Hugs! -Valentine (& Mom) of Noir Kitty Mews

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  15. What a very nice tribute. I'm not very familiar with him, so it was nice to read about him.

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  16. I knew the song (vaguely) I had no idea Conway Twitty had done it. I've enjoyed some of his songs, although I am not that much of a country music fan. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

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  17. What a beautiful tribute - I had no idea Conway was so young when he died.

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