Mickey Newbury (May 19, 1940 - September 29, 2002) was an American songwriter for Acuff-Rose Music, a critically acclaimed recording artist, and a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Born Milton Sim Newbury, Jr. in Houston, Texas. As a teenager, Mickey Newbury sang tenor in a moderately successful vocal group called The Embers. The group opened for several famous performers, such as Sam Cooke and Johnny Cash. Although Mickey tried to make a living off of his music by singing in clubs, he put his musical career on hold at age 19 when he joined the Air Force. After four years in the military, Mickey again set his sights on making a living as a songwriter. Before long, he moved to Nashville and signed to the prestigious publishing company Acuff-Rose Music.
For a time, he was one of the most influential creative minds in Nashville and it's arguable that he was the first real "outlaw" of the outlaw country movement of the 1970s. Ralph Emery referred to him as the first "hippie-cowboy" and along with Johnny Cash and Roger Miller, he was one of the first to rebel against the conventions of the Nashville music society. After being disappointed by the production methods used by Felton Jarvis on his debut album, Mickey got himself released from his contract with RCA and signed the first offer he received to comply with his condition that he could either produce his own albums or hire a producer of his choice. He went on to record three musically revolutionary albums in Wayne Moss's garage-turned-studio just outside of Nashville. The influence of the production methods can be heard in the albums Waylon Jennings went on to record in the 70s (with instrumentation highly unconventional for country music) and his poetically sophisticated style of songwriting was highly influential on Kris Kristofferson. It was Newbury who convinced Roger Miller to record Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee", which went on to launch Kristofferson as country music's top songwriter. Newbury is also responsible for getting Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to move to Nashville and pursue careers as songwriters. However, he had no desire to cash-in on the Outlaw movement.
In 1974, he moved to a house on the McKenzie River in Oregon with his wife, Susan, and new born son, Chris, where they welcomed three more children over the years. He recorded several albums throughout the 1970s for Elektra and ABC/Hickory, all of them critically praised, but financially unsuccessful. In 1980, he was given the distinction of being the youngest songwriter ever inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Although he spent much of the 1980s retired from performing and recording music, he returned both to recording and touring in the late 1980s and recorded several universally praised albums before he died of a prolonged battle with pulmonary fibrosis on , 2002.
Newbury wrote many songs that would be recorded by singers and songwriters such as Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Bill Monroe, Johnny Rodriguez, Hank Snow, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Ray Price, Don Gibson, Brenda Lee, Charlie Rich, David Allan Coe, Sammi Smith, Joan Baez, Tom Jones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, BB King, Linda Ronstadt, and Bobby "Blue" Bland, among many others.
Although his songs have been recorded by hundreds of performers from a wide variety of musical genres, he is most remembered for his creation of "An American Trilogy", a medley that was recorded by many, including symphony orchestras, but most notably by Elvis Presley.
He is also often praised for simultaneously having four Top 10 singles on four different charts in the late 60s. Eddy Arnold had a #1 Country hit with "Here Comes the Rain, Baby", Andy Williams had a #1 Easy Listening hit with "Sweet Memories", Solomon Burke had a #1 Rhythm and Blues hit with "Time Is A Thief", and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a #5 Pop/Rock hit with "Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)."
Shortly before his death, Newbury was interviewed by John Kruth, who was writing a biography on Townes Van Zandt, where he stated "How many people have listened to my songs and thought, 'He must have a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a pistol in the other'. Well, I don't. I write my sadness." Many of Newbury's songs, such as "The Thirty-Third Of August," "The Future Is Not What It Used To Be," and "Just Dropped In" delve into the dark recesses of the human psyche. Like Van Zandt and Leonard Cohen, Newbury's music developed a strong, cult following who appreciated its honesty and identified with its disturbing subject manner. ?You?ve Always Got The Blues? was used as the soundtrack for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation?s 8-part TV series, Stringer.
Selected list of songs
1967 "Funny, Familiar, Forgotten Feelings" - Tom Jones, Don Gibson
1968 "Sweet Memories" - Willie Nelson, Andy Williams
1968 "Weeping Annaleah" - Tom Jones
1968 "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" - Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
1969 "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" - Jerry Lee Lewis
1972 "An American Trilogy" - Elvis Presley
1972 "Mister Can't You See" - Buffy Sainte-Marie (her only Top 75 hit)
1972 "Mobile Blue" - Ian Matthews
1973 "San Francisco Mabel Joy" - Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe
Newbury tribute albums (in order of release)
Thirteen covers by as many artists make up the first Newbury tribute album, Frisco Mabel Joy Revisited.
Cowboy Johnson included 12 covers on his 2004 tribute, A Grain of Sand.
Toni Jolene Clay covered 15 Newbury songs, 11 on her 2005 album, Amen For Old Friends.
Jonmark Stone & Marie Rhines covered 10 songs on their 2005 album, When I Heard Newbury Sing.
Kacey Jones covers 15 songs on her 2006 tribute album, Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury.
Ronny Cox sings 12 Newbury songs on his 2007 album, How I love them old songs...
Will Oldham covers "I Came Here to Hear the Music" on his 2007 album, Ask Forgiveness
Harlequin Melodies - 1968
Funny, Familiar, Forgotten, Feelings - 1968 (UK Release Only)
It Looks Like Rain - 1969
Frisco Mabel Joy - 1971
Sings His Own - 1972
Heaven Help The Child - 1973
Live At Montezuma Hall - 1973
I Came To Hear The Music - 1974
Lovers - 1975
Rusty Tracks - 1977
His Eye Is On The Sparrow - 1978
The Sailor - 1979
After All These Years - 1981
Sweet Memories - 1985
In A New Age - 1988
Best Of Mickey Newbury - 1991
Nights When I Am Sane - 1994
Lulled By The Moonlight - 1996
Live In England - 1998
It Might As Well Be The Moon - 1999
Stories From The Silver Moon Cafe - 2000
Winter Winds - 2002
A Long Road Home - 2002
Blue To This Day - 2003