April 29, 2009 "You don't know about lonely 'til it's chiseled in stone." The words from one of Vern Gosdin's biggest hits echoes down Music Row. The man often referred to as "The Voice" will have his name chiseled in a headstone following his death from a stroke on Tuesday.
Noted for an aching resonance, Vern, 74, collected nearly 20 Top 10 hits from 1977 through 1991, peaking in the late 1980s with the No. 1 singles "Set 'Em Up Joe" and "I'm Still Crazy," and claiming Song of the Year honors from the Country Music Association in 1989 for "Chiseled In Stone," co-written with Max D. Barnes.
Born in Alabama and raised on gospel and country, Vern found musical footing in the 1960s when he joined brother Rex Gosdin in a California bluegrass group, the Golden State Boys, which also featured Chris Hillman, who would soon become a member of the Byrds. He wrote a song that appeared in the soundtrack of the hippie-era biker movie Easy Rider and finally cracked the country singles list in 1976 with a double-sided release, "Hangin' On" and "Yesterday's Gone," which featured backing vocals by Emmylou Harris. He scored several more successes in the '70s with covers of "Never My Love" and "Break My Mind" and netted a 1982 hit with "Today My World Slipped Away," which would be covered 15 years later by George Strait.
The 1983 single "Way Down Deep" reconnected Vern with his gospel roots, "If You're Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right)" earned a CMA Song of the Year nomination, and 1987's "Do You Believe Me Now" reinvigorated his career after a three-year lull.
Vern encountered a string of health problems in the 1990s: He required heart bypass surgery in 1990, suffered a stroke in 1995 and incurred a second stroke in 1999. Along the way, he picked up three gold albums Chiseled In Stone, 10 Years Of Greatest Hits (Newly Recorded) and Super Hits and a 2005 induction in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He earned kudos and admiration from numerous country artists including George Jones, Randy Travis and Jake Owen for his emotional command of a traditional country song.