David Olney, Hours Before Dying On Stage, Said He Was Playing Festival To ‘Let People Know I’m Still Around’

A person plays an acoustic guitar on a stage.
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Just hours before he died while performing in concert in Florida, singer David Olney filmed an acoustic set where he talked about his desire to attend the festival that celebrated singer/songwriters.

The Nashville music legend and influential singer said he wanted to make sure people had remembered him, which prompted him to return to the 30A Songwriters Festival for the first time in years.

“I try to get back every now and then to let people know I’m still around,” Olney said during the set, which was later uploaded to YouTube.

Hours later, Olney was performing a public concert when he suddenly fell ill. As musicians who were with him at the time described, he simply paused during a song, apologized to the crowd, and put his head down. They did not realize at first that he suffered a major medical emergency — believed to be a heart attack — and died on stage.

“David was playing a song when he paused, said ‘I’m sorry’ and put his chin to his chest,” wrote Scott Miller, a fellow performer, in a Facebook post. “He never dropped his guitar or fell off his stool. It was as easy and gentle as he was. We got him down and tried our best to revive him until the EMT’s arrived. The world lost a good one last night. But we still have his work. And it still inspires. And always will. RIP.”

The 30A Songwriters Festival seemed a fitting final performance for Olney, friends and fellow performers said. The three-day event is meant to celebrate singer/songwriters, and the late musician was praised as highly influential, especially in the folk-rock and Americana communities. His songs were performed by a number of other musicians, including Linda Ronstadt, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris.

He was also a prolific songwriter, recording 20 solo albums over the course of his career, including six live albums.

As the reaction to Olney’s sudden passing showed, there were many who knew he was still around and full of praise for his influence. Many took to social media after his death to share their memories, including several who knew him from his stature on the Nashville music scene. Olney was a fixture in the Music City, relocating there in 1973 and performing frequently in the decades that followed. While there, he also became a fixture at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, where he performed sonnets that he wrote himself.