David Olney was performing at a concert in Florida on Saturday when he paused in the middle of a song and told the audience “I’m sorry” before dropping his chin to his chest.
The 71-year-old singer never regained consciousness, dying on stage after suffering an apparent heart attack, CNN reported.
Olney, an accomplished singer/songwriter whose music was widely influential, was performing at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach when he suddenly fell ill on stage. Amy Rigby, who was performing on stage with Olney at the time of his death, recounted what happened in a Facebook post, saying the singer died with dignity.
As Rigby and others attending the concert noted, it at first appeared as if Olney was pausing or deep in thought.
“He was very still, sitting upright with his guitar on, wearing the coolest hat and a beautiful rust suede jacket… 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,” Rigby wrote.
She added that fellow performer Scott Miller had the presence of mind to realize that something was seriously wrong, trying to lead efforts to revive Olney. Doctors who were in the audience also attended to the singer, but Olney ultimately passed away. It is not yet clear what the cause of death might be, though some have reported that the symptoms resembled those common to a heart attack.
Rigby said she was hit hard by Olney’s passing.
“I am so sorry for his wife and family and friends and all the people who loved him and his music,” she wrote. “Even those who never heard of him. We all lost someone important last night.”
There did not appear to be any indications that Olney was in poor health, and in fact, earlier — on the day of his death — he recorded an acoustic set for the music festival that was later uploaded to YouTube.
Heard the sad news about the passing of David Olney, who was an artist in every sense of the word – original, determined, unique. He was gracious enough to talk to me for a podcast back in 2013. One of a kind. #RIP pic.twitter.com/qqsWQe8NlZ
— Kevin Walters (@thekevinwalters) January 19, 2020
While Olney may not have been a household name, he had wide-ranging influence in the music industry. He recorded more than 20 solo albums, and his work was performed by a number of artists — including Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.
As the New York Post noted, Olney was also a key figure in the Nashville music scene since relocating there in 1973. He maintained an important stature in the folk rock and Americana communities, the report added.
After his passing, many fans took to social media to offer condolences to Olney’s family and to discuss the impact he had on the music world.
Olney is survived by a wife and two children.