Coun­try’s Jim Ed Brown dies at 81

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE -

Jim Ed Brown, the mild-man­nered crooner who spent a half­cen­tury at one of U.S. coun­try mu­sic’s most pres­ti­gious venues, the Grand Ole Opry, died Thurs­day. He was 81.

Brown died from can­cer at a hos­pi­tal in Franklin, Ten­nessee, near Nashville, ac­cord­ing to Web­ster Public Re­la­tions, which rep­re­sented him.

With his health de­clin­ing, the Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame in­ducted him last week at the hos­pi­tal, bring­ing for­ward a cer­e­mony that had been sched­uled for Oc­to­ber.

The singer won cross­over suc­cess in 1959, top­ping both the pop and coun­try charts with the song “The Three Bells” per­formed with his two sis­ters.

The song tells of a char­ac­ter named Jimmy Brown, nar­rat­ing his life from his birth to mar­riage to death.

While Brown was fre­quently asked if the song was au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, it was based on a French song, “Les Trois Cloches,” that imag­ined the life of an every­man by the name of JeanFran­cois Ni­cot.

The song be­came popular as a folk tune among the French un­der Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion in World War II and reached a wider au­di­ence when Edith Piaf sang it.

Brown heard an English ver­sion of the song when he was a truck driver in his na­tive Arkansas. He was en­chanted by the tale, but deleted much of it to keep to the U.S. coun­try ra­dio for­mat of the time that re­stricted songs to three min­utes long.

Af­ter his sis­ters left mu­sic, Brown be­came a solo artist and in 1967 recorded what be­came one of his most iden­ti­fi­able songs, “Pop a Top,” spo­ken in the voice of a grief-stricken bar pa­tron ask­ing for drink af­ter drink.

Brown in 1963 be­came a mem­ber of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, a pan­theon for coun­try mu­sic stars. He stayed ac­tive there un­til near his death.

Brown be­came a fre­quent host of Grand Ole Opry shows and later led his own syn­di­cated ra­dio show. He was also known for his duets with He­len Cor­nelius, in­clud­ing “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You.”

Brown had re­tired from record­ing for more than four decades un­til this year when he re­leased a come­back al­bum en­ti­tled “In Style Again.”

In an in­ter­view to pro­mote the al­bum, Brown said he hoped to record fur­ther work.

“I love life. I’m not a neg­a­tive per­son at all; God has given me a great place to live,” he told the on­line coun­try pub­li­ca­tion No De­pres­sion.

“I like happy songs, and I try to put a lit­tle life in them.”

AP

In this March 25 file photo, Jim Ed Brown speaks dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame in­ductees in Nashville, Ten­nessee.

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