For the past 20 years, Bob DiPiero has helped define the best that is Music Row. A legendarily funny and compelling performer, he is one of a handful setting the bar for present-day songwriter/entertainers. He is also a key part of the city's new leadership, a board member of the Country Music Association, a Leadership Nashville alumnus and former Nashville Songwriters Association, Inc., president who brings the creative and business communities together as few can.
As a raconteur, he may have no equal among his peers, and as a musical ambassador and bridge-builder, he has helped make Nashville a port of call for legendary performers from all genres, writing with Neil Diamond, Carole King, Johnny Van Zant and Delbert McClinton, among many others.
He is one of Nashville's most consistent and prolific writers of hits, and he remains at the top of his profession more than two decades after hitting No. 1 on the charts for the first time in 1983. The reason is a pure love of the creative process.
"What comes out of me is totally passion-based and led by my intuition. I'm still a fan. I'm still amazed by the process and I'm still a student. That's what keeps it alive for me. That's what keeps the process of writing new and fresh."
He is just as passionate about that point at which song, performance and audience intersect.
"I consider myself a songwriter and guitar player who loves to entertain," says the man whose accomplishments led him to be nominated in 2004 to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He has inspired among a wide cross-section of industry people and fans equal measures of affection and respect.
"Bob is the dean of country writers at this point," says radio legend Bob Kingsley. "He has stepped into Harlan Howard's shoes as far as I'm concerned. He is just a great ambassador for country music, someone who really generates a lot of respect for the genre and who is always willing to share himself with would-be and upcoming songwriters. He is one of those writers who's also a really good singer, so that you're thinking sometimes when you hear him sing one of his hits, 'Oh, so that's how it's supposed to sound.' He's a wonderful asset for country music."
DiPiero's list of songs cuts a varied and impressive swath through modern country and speaks volumes about his versatility and vision. Although his first cut, Reba McEntire's "I Can See Forever In Your Eyes," climbed into the country Top 20, the Oak Ridge Boys' "American Made" put his name on the music map. The song won numerous awards and was used in major ad campaigns for Miller Beer and the Baby Ruth candy bar. Through the years, DiPiero has given the industry some of its most memorable moments, crafting 14 No. 1 hits recorded by country music giants including Montgomery Gentry ("If You Ever Stop Loving Me"), Vince Gill ("Worlds Apart"), Reba McEntire ("Little Rock" and "Till You Love Me"), Shenandoah ("The Church On Cumberland Road"), Ricochet ("Daddy's Money"), Faith Hill ("Take Me As I Am") and George Strait ("Blue Clear Sky"). Other hit singles include "You Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out Of the Girl" (Brooks & Dunn), "Cowboys Like Us" (George Strait), "The Girls Gone Wild" (Travis Tritt) and "There You Are" (Martina McBride). Bob's most recent single is "She Don't Tell Me To" (Montgomery Gentry).
DiPiero has received many awards for his contributions to country music, including three dozen BMI Country and Million-Air honors; CMA's Triple Play Award in 1995 for "Wink" (Neal McCoy), "Take Me As I Am" (Faith Hill) and "Till You Love Me" (Reba McEntire). In 1995, he also received BMI's Robert J. Burton Award for Neal McCoy's "Wink" for most performed country song of the year. In 1996, DiPiero's hits, "Blue Clear Sky" (George Strait), "Daddy's Money" (Ricochet) and "Worlds Apart" (Vince Gill) garnered him a second CMA Triple Play Award. He was awarded "Song of the Year" for "Worlds Apart" (Vince Gill) at the Country Radio Music Awards in 1997. In January 1998, he was named "Songwriter of the Year" at the Nashville Music Awards, and in 2000, he was named "Songwriter of the Year" by Sony/ATV, Nashville.
As impressive as the songs and awards are, it is DiPiero's presence on the stages of clubs like the legendary Bluebird Cafe or industry events like Country in the Rockies that more than anything has conferred on him legend status. His CD "Laugh" captures him at his best, turning song introductions into cinematically rich tales rife with behind-the-scenes anecdotes, encounters with characters like his former father-in-law Mel Tillis, and moments from his colorful Italian upbringing on the rough-and-tumble streets of his beloved Youngstown, Ohio.
It was in Youngstown that DiPiero developed his love for music, joining his first band when he was 14. He put himself through college playing in rock 'n roll bands and graduated from Youngstown State University's Dana School of Music before uprooting to the Music City on Halloween night over 20 years ago. After sharpening his songwriting skills while teaching guitar for five years, he landed a deal with Combine Music, whose writers included Kris Kristofferson, Tony Joe White and Larry Gatlin.
His performing skills came into play from when he helped found the Warner Reprise band Billy Hill from 1989-1991. The group was best known for "Too Much Month at the End of the Money" and its stellar rendition of the Temptations hit "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch (I Can't Help Myself)."
Since his first cut, DiPiero has been responsible for an essentially uninterrupted string of chart hits, earning his place among the most successful songwriters ever to walk Music Row. It is a feat that is testament to his uncanny ability to stay in touch with the pulse of the listener.
"I'm always trying to put myself in the shoes of the people who turn the radio on every day looking for something that means something to them," he says. "Other than that, I attribute my success to the fact that I love what I do. My work is my hobby and my hobby is my work."
His increasing immersion in the business side of music promises more good things for songwriters.
"I joined the board of the CMA," he says, "with the desire to represent the songwriting community to that board. It's a very powerful body of people who shape the present and future of country music. I want to make sure songwriters have a voice in that present and future."
The songwriting community couldn't ask for a more knowledgeable spokesman.
When Bob is not writing songs in Nashville, you can find him and his wife Leslie relaxing in Seaside, Florida. They were married in a beachside ceremony in June of 2006.