The world of country music just lost one of its best writers and most well-respected voices. Author Chet Flippo passed away early this morning (June 19) in Nashville. He was 69.
The Fort Worth, Texas, native has been a champion of country music–as well as rock, pop, and other styles–for decades. He wrote such acclaimed books as Your Cheatin’ Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams, On the Road With the Rolling Stones, and the anthology Everybody Was Kung-Fu Dancing. He also wrote books on Paul McCartney and David Bowie, among others.
Flippo was well-loved by many across the spectrum of country music, including Taylor Swift, who called him “one of my favorite journalists” in a Tweet she posted earlier today:
We’ve lost Chet Flippo, one of my favorite journalists, who devoted his life to writing about music from a place of integrity. So sad.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) June 19, 2013
As a writer and editor at Rolling Stone in the 1970s, Flippo helped new generations of rock fans understand the breadth and depth of a genre that many knew little about. More than a few music fans were turned onto the music of artists like Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings thanks to Flippo (who was a lifelong fan and champion of the ’70s Outlaw sound). “If ever somebody figured out the American dream and made it work, it’s Dolly Parton,” Flippo wrote of the country legend in his 1980 Rolling Stone profile.
Flippo later taught journalism as the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and served as Billboard‘s Nashville bureau chief. He briefly worked at Sonicnet before joining CMT in 2001, where he was editorial director right up until his death. He also wrote a regular column for CMT, Nashville Skyline, that championed many of his favorite artists.
“Chet was a fierce advocate for country music long before country was cool,” said CMT president Brian Philips in a statement. He “championed legitimate musical innovation,” Philips continued, and he “loved country music too much to let Music Row get away with fostering hypes and copycat artists on the public. Because his criticisms came from a respected insider and known country music-lover, his columns were taken very seriously by the Nashville community. Chet kept everybody honest.”
– Kurt Wolff, Radio.com