Jim Weatherly, Songwriter Of 'Midnight Train To Georgia' And Other Hits, Dies The former Ole Miss quarterback wrote hits for Gladys Knight & the Pips during the 1970s. His songs were also recorded by Glen Campbell, Charley Pride and Indigo Girls.
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Jim Weatherly, Who Wrote 'Midnight Train To Georgia,' Dies At 77

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Jim Weatherly, Who Wrote 'Midnight Train To Georgia,' Dies At 77

Jim Weatherly, Who Wrote 'Midnight Train To Georgia,' Dies At 77

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jim Weatherly wrote the song "Midnight Train To Georgia. He died this week at his home in Brentwood, Tenn., at the age of 77. According to The Tennessean newspaper, it was natural causes.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Jim Weatherly wrote songs that became hits for a number of country artists, including Ray Price and Glen Campbell. But it was Gladys Knight & the Pips who took his words and melodies to another level.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU ARE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME")

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: (Singing) Because you're the best thing - you're the best thing that ever happened to me - that ever happened to me. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.

BLAIR: Jim Weatherly told interviewers he thought Gladys Knight liked his songs because he leaves a lot of space between the lines for the Pips to fill in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA")

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: (Singing) LA proved too much for the man. Too much for the man. He couldn't make it. So he's leaving the life he's come to know.

BLAIR: The journey behind "Midnight Train To Georgia" is a lesson in serendipity and artistic flexibility. In 1970, Weatherly called his friend, actor Lee Majors, whose then-girlfriend, Farrah Fawcett, answered the phone. Weatherly told Mississippi Public Broadcasting what happened next.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM WEATHERLY: She said Lee wasn't there, but during the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she was taking a midnight plane to Houston.

BLAIR: Weatherly liked the sound of those words, midnight plane to Houston, and wrote a song in less than an hour. And he recorded it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIDNIGHT PLANE TO HOUSTON")

WEATHERLY: (Singing) And she's leaving on the midnight plane to Houston.

BLAIR: Weatherly's publisher wanted to give the song to Cissy Houston, but she told The Wall Street Journal, my people are originally from Georgia, and they didn't take planes. Weatherly agreed to change it. Gladys Knight, who's from Atlanta, also approved.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA")

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: (Singing) Said he's going back to find - going back to find - a simpler place and time. And when he takes that ride, guess who's going to sit right by his side? And I'm going to be with him - I know you will - on that midnight train to Georgia.

BLAIR: Rolling Stone named "Midnight Train To Georgia" one of the 500 greatest songs of all time. After learning of his death, Gladys Knight tweeted, I'm missing Jim Weatherly already.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA")

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: (Singing) He's leaving - leaving - on the midnight train to Georgia. Leaving on the midnight train. Yeah, said he's going back to find...

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