Mickey Newbury, whose songwriting set a poetic tone for country music in the 1970s, died Saturday (Sept. 28) at his home in Vida, Ore., at the age of 62. Newbury’s songwriting credits include Kenny Rogers & the First Edition’s first hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ classic “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye.”
Born in Houston, Newbury began writing songs while a senior in high school. Following a stint in the U.S. Air Force, he signed with Nashville’s Acuff-Rose Music Publishing in 1964. He was influenced by Hank Williams and other country songwriters, but Newbury’s songs also displayed elements of jazz, R&B and poets from “the beat generation.”
Don Gibson’s 1966 recording of “Funny, Familiar, Forgotten Feelings” provided Newbury his first hit. The song was later a pop hit for Tom Jones. With more than 500 recordings by artists as diverse as Waylon Jennings, Eddy Arnold, Andy Williams, Joan Baez, B.B. King and Ray Charles, Newbury’s other songwriting credits include “Sweet Memories,” “Here Comes the Rain, Baby,” “Why You Been Gone So Long” and “San Francisco Mabel Joy.”
During his recording career, Newbury released albums for Mercury, RCA, Elektra, Hickory and other labels. His greatest chart came in 1971 with “An American Trilogy,” Newbury’s medley of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Dixie” and “All My Trials.” Elvis Presley later included the medley as a highlight of his concerts during the 1970s.
Earlier this year, Mountain Retreat Records released Winter Winds, a one-take live studio recording. The collection includes “Angeline,” “Poison Red Berries,” “33rd of August,” “Nights When I Am Sane” and others from Newbury’s extensive song catalog. The collection includes a new version of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” a song Willie Nelson also chose for his latest album, The Great Divide.
Newbury, who moved to Oregon during the 1980s, had battled a blood disease for several years.