Joe South, a Georgia music legend best remembered for writing the hit songs “Games People Play” and “Down in the Boondocks” in the 1960s and 70s, has died. He was 72.
According to Butch Lowery, president of music publisher Lowery Group, South passed away at his home in Buford, Georgia Wednesday after suffering heart failure.
“He’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time. His songs have touched so many lives. He’s such a wonderful guy and loved by many,” Lowery wrote following South’s passing.
Born Joseph Alfred Souter in Atlanta in 1940, South kick-started his pop career in 1958 with the novelty hit “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor” and went on to establish his songwriting skills the following year by penning two tracks (“I Might Have Known” and “Gone Gone Gone”) which were recorded by Gene Vincent.
During the sixties, Joe continued songwriting but became better known as a session guitarist playing with artists including Aretha Franklin (“Chain of Fools”), Wilson Pickett, Bob Dylan, and Simon and Garfunkel (“The Sounds of Silence”). In 1969, Joe’s recording of “Games People Play” was a Top 20 hit and won two Grammy Awards.
South went into semi-retirement after his brother’s suicide death in 1971 but briefly returned a few years later with another album. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame eight years later (1979) and entered the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981.
In 2009, South released a new song for the first time in decades entitled, “Oprah Cried.”
He is survived by a son, Craig, and a granddaughter.