David Olney, an Americana singer-songwriter whose works were covered or co-written by Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Young, Del McCoury and Laurie Lewis, has died. Olney passed on Saturday night while performing onstage at the 30A Songwriter Festival. He was 71.
The singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt once said of Olney: “Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan and Dave Olney. Dave Olney is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard – and that’s true. I mean that from my heart.”
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Musician-author Amy Rigby was performing with Olney at the event and posted about it on Facebook.
“David Olney, a beautiful man, a legend, a songwriting poet died last night,” Rigby said. “I was sitting next to him in the round, had been so honored and looking forward to getting to trade songs with him and Scott Miller. Olney was in the middle of his third song when he stopped, apologized, and shut his eyes. He was very still, sitting upright with his guitar on, wearing the coolest hat and a beautiful rust suede jacket we laughed about because it was raining like hell outside the boathouse where we were playing- I just want the picture to be as graceful and dignified as it was, because it at first looked like he was just taking a moment.
“Scott Miller had the presence of mind to say we needed to revive him. Doctors in the audience and 30A folks were all working so hard to get him to come to. It’s hard to post about this because I can’t really believe he’s gone. I am so sorry for his wife and family and friends and all the people who loved him and his music. Even those who never heard of him. We all lost someone important last night.”
Olney attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but did not graduate. He began working with Bland Simpson’s band in 1971, recording one album before moving to Nashville in 1973. There he formed his band, The X-Rays, who recorded two albums for Rounder Records and appeared on Austin City Limits.
He went on from there to release more than 20 albums over four decades. He also worked as a cinematographer and member of the production team on various shorts and documentaries.
No details were immediately available on survivors.
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