Don Eugene Gibson, an elementary school dropout who became a legendary country music singer/songwriter, died on Nov. 17 of natural causes. He was 75.
Born in poverty, Gibson dropped out of school in the second grade to help his sharecropping family with farm chores. After teaching himself to read and play the guitar, a teenaged Gibson landed a job performing with his band, The Sons of the Soil, at a Knoxville radio station. In his spare time, he earned $30/week playing music in local bars.
Gibson helped create the “Nashville Sound” of the 1960s by writing songs that used simple words to convey strong emotions. In 1955, he broke into the music business with “Sweet Dreams,” a classic he recorded twice; it also became a hit for Patsy Cline.
Two years later, Gibson wrote two songs that became popular standards in country music — “Oh Lonesome Me” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Although more than 700 artists covered “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” the Ray Charles version topped the pop charts in 1962 and sold more than 1 million records.
Known as “the sad poet,” Gibson recorded 50 albums, most of which he also wrote. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.