Wayne Carson, writer of 'Always On My Mind,' dies at 72

NEW YORK - Wayne Carson, a prolific songwriter whose hits for other stars included the Elvis Presley classic "Always On My Mind," died Monday. He was 72.

Carson suffered numerous health issues including diabetes and heart and gallstone problems, his wife, Wyndi Harp Head, told the Springfield News-Leader newspaper in Missouri, where they lived.

"Our music community has lost an immense talent much too soon," Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, said in a statement of the two-time Grammy winner.

Carson said he wrote "Always On My Mind" in 10 minutes at his kitchen table in Springfield and initially did not think that the song needed a bridge.

Under pressure from his producer, he was sent to a piano and quickly came up with the song's memorable bridge - two lines that begin, "Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn't died." Such speed in songwriting was common for Carson, who played piano, guitar, bass and percussion.

"A song ain't nothing but a story waiting for somebody to tell it. It's like putting one foot in front of the another," he told the music biographer Gary James.

"Always On My Mind" became one of the classics of Elvis, whose version was especially poignant as it came out shortly after his separation from his wife Priscilla in 1972.

But Carson, along with two co-writers brought in at the studio, won Grammys for the song in 1983 after it became a hit for country giant Willie Nelson.

Other notable versions included a dance pop rendition by the Pet Shop Boys in 1987.

Carson said that "Always On My Mind" had initially been offered to Fred Foster, a producer and record executive known notably for his work with Roy Orbison, but he did not like the song.

Born in Denver to parents who met working at a radio station, Carson was mostly associated with country music but developed a love of rock 'n' roll from a young age.

His first break came when Nashville fixture Eddy Arnold asked him to help write an additional verse for his song "Somebody Like Me," which went to number one on the country chart in 1966.

Other hits by Carson, whose full name was Wayne Carson Thompson, included "The Letter," a number one song in 1967 for Memphis soul-influenced rockers The Box Tops, and country singer Conway Twitty's "I See the Want To in Your Eyes."

 

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