Fairfield Four Gospel Great Passes

Isaac “Dickie” Freeman, the revered bass singer of the Nashville gospel group The Fairfield Four, has died at age 84.

A member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and a Grammy Award winner, Freeman had been in declining health for several years. He passed away on Tuesday, October 16.

He was born in Alabama and raised in Ohio. In the 1940s, he began his singing career in the gospel groups The Golden Tones and The Kings of Harmony.

Freeman first joined the long-established Fairfield Four in 1948. One of gospel music’s oldest and most influential harmony quartets, the group was founded in 1925 at Nashville’s Fairfield Baptist Church. When Freeman joined, the group was already recording for Bullet Records and broadcasting its own show on WLAC radio. The program had national distribution via the CBS radio network.

In 1950, Freeman left Nashville to sing in the Alabama-based Skylarks. He moved back to Music City in 1962. After a period of dormancy, The Fairfield Four was reconstituted in 1980. During the next few years, the group resumed recording and sang with such stars as Amy Grant, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, John Fogerty and Lyle Lovett.

The group’s 1999 album I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray won a Grammy Award. The following year, Freeman and his musical partners were featured in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou as well as on its multi-million selling soundtrack album.

Over the years, The Fairfield Four also recorded for Bullet, Dot, Delta, Champion, Old Town, Nashboro, Dead Reckoning, Blue Plate and Warner Bros. Records.

Freeman issued his first solo album in 2002. Titled Beautiful Stars, it was produced by Kieran Kane and featured Mike Henderson’s band The Blue Bloods as well as The McCrary Sisters. The McCrarys’ father, Sam McCrary, was The Fairfield Four’s anchor tenor vocalist and most enduring member. After he died in 1989, Freeman became the group’s cornerstone and musical director.

Funeral arrangements for Isaac Freeman have not been announced.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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