Nashville Songwriter Eddie Setser Passes

Eddie Setser, one of Music City’s top songwriters of the 1980s, died last week in Kentucky at age 77.

Setser is perhaps best known for co-writing the Willie Nelson/Ray Charles duet hit “Seven Spanish Angels.” This 1985 No. 1 smash has also been recorded by rocker Bryan Adams, country’s George Canyon and Stoney LaRue, the bluegrass band Dry Branch Fire Squad, Tex-Mex artist Stephanie Urbina Jones and The Voice contestant Adam Wakefield among many others.

The song’s renown spread overseas. It has been recorded by Dutch, Czechoslovakian, Norwegian, Estonian, French, Yugoslavian, Australian, Finnish, Jamaican and Swedish artists.

Eddie Setser was born in Kentucky, but his family moved to Cincinnati when he was 10 years old. He picked up the guitar at age 12 and started playing in Ohio nightclubs when he was 18.

Soul star James Brown discovered him and arranged for Setser’s band, The Dapps, to record for King Records in Cincinnati. The group eventually played the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem and appeared on the national Merv Griffin TV show.

Singer-songwriter Troy Seals took Setser under his wing, urged him to move to Nashville in 1974 and tutored him as a songwriter. Setser’s first notable success on Music Row was the 1978 Con Hunley hit “Weekend Friend.”

But his career really took off in the following decade with the 1982 Gary Morris hit “Don’t Look Back.” Setser also co-wrote Morris’s hits “Why Lady Why” (1984) and “Anything Goes” (1986).

The songwriter’s other big country hits included The Bellamy Brothers’ “Forget About Me” (1984), Reba McEntire’s “Let the Music Lift You Up” (1987), The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Beyond Those Years” (1989) and John Schneider’s “Country Girls” (1985) and “Love You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me” (1987).

His reputation extended beyond country music. Setser co-wrote Eric Clapton’s 1983 pop hit “I’ve Got a Rock & Roll Heart.” His songs were also sung by Rod Stewart, Aretha Franklin, Greg Guidry, Etta James, The 4 Tops, Rita Coolidge, Isaac Hayes and Delbert McClinton.

Among the other top country stars who sang his songs were Charley Pride (“Down on the Farm,” 1985), Mark Gray (“It Ain’t Real,” 1982), John Anderson (“Country ‘Til I Die,” 1994), John Berry (“If I Had Any Pride Left At All,” 1995) and Faith Hill (“But I Will,” 1994).

His works were recorded by such Country Music Hall of Fame members as Don Williams, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Randy Travis, Waylon Jennings, Alabama and Johnny Cash.

Eddie Setser was a native of Corbin, Kentucky. After he retired in 1996, he returned to Corbin, where he passed away on Monday, Jan. 27. His graveside funeral service was held in Lily, Kentucky on Jan. 29.


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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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