Charlie Rich, the soulful, silver-haired balladeer who topped country music charts with the songs “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl” in 1973, died July 25 of a blood clot in the lungs. He was 62.
Rich died at a motel in Hammond, La., where he and his wife Margaret had stopped during a trip to Florida, coroner Vincent Cefalu said.
Nicknamed the “Silver Fox” because of hair that went white when he was 23, Rich had been off the charts for 15 years.
His heyday was the mid-1970s, when he was voted the Country Music Assn.’s male vocalist of the year in 1973 and entertainer of the year in 1974.
“Behind Closed Doors” and “A Very Special Love Song” were chosen albums of the year in 1973 and 1974, respectively. Rich’s last song on the charts was “You Made It Beautiful” in 1981. His last No. 1 single was “On My Knees,” a duet with Janie Fricke in l978.
In the early 1950s, the Air Force sent him to Oklahoma, where he formed one of his first groups, the Velvetones, which had a jazz-blues sound.
When he was discharged from the Air Force, Rich moved to West Memphis, Ark., and continued performing, making his way to Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn.
He joined Sun in 1958 as a session pianist and songwriter.
Rich’s first hit song was “Lonely Weekends” in 1959.
In 1972, Rich’s hit “I Take It on Home” was nominated for a Grammy. His other hits included “Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High)” and “I Love My Friend.” He had a highly regarded gospel album in 1974, “Silver Linings.”
Rich, who fought alcoholism during much of his career, lived in Memphis.
He and his wife had four children.