SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. – Singer-songwriter David Olney died Saturday after suffering an apparent heart attack during a performance in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, according to a statement on his website. He was 71.
Olney is best known for his songwriting. His songs have been recorded by artists like Emmylou Harris, Del McCoury, Linda Ronstadt and Steve Young.
Olney, a Rhode Island native, was a key member of Nashville’s music community since he moved to the Music City in 1973. He quickly fell in with a group of like-minded songwriters that included Guy Clark, Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, and Richard Dobson.
“David Olney tells marvelous stories, with characters who cling to the hope of enduring love, all the while crossing the deep divide into that long, dark night of the soul,” Emmylou Harris once said of Olney.
The songwriter’s lyrics are products of an inquisitiveness that allowed him to explore subjects that few songwriters would consider: He wrote of a Nashville train disaster, of baseball shortstop Phil Rizzuto, and of actor John Barrymore. He wrote about Jesus Christ from the narrative perspective of the donkey that carried him into Jerusalem, and about the Titanic from the perspective of the iceberg that sank the ship.
Olney is survived by his wife, Regine, daughter, Lillian, and son, Redding.