Although songwriter Joe South's greatest chart successes put a spotlight on other singers -- Billy Joe Royal's take on "Down in the Boondocks" or Lynn Anderson's "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden" -- a retrospective of his relatively short, disproportionately successful career reveals a consummate country artist of the mid- and late 1970s.
South, who passed away in his home of sudden heart failure on Wednesday, was the kind of multiple-threat artist that is something of a rare breed these days. As a session guitarist, he played electric on Dylan's seminal Blonde on Blonde (listen to some of the amazing, plucky rhythm-guitar riffing on "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" - that ain't Bob!), the chiming arpeggiations in Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence," and Aretha's "Chain of Fools." As a songwriter, he wrote for a number of glitzy, modern '70s Nashville hits that got him inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. And as a stylist, he turned out a clutch of sensitively written and passionately performed tunes like "Games People Play," his highest-charting hit.
That tune -- questioning religious and cultural hypocrisy -- is emblematic of the penetrating, soulful music that defines his career. To toast South's life and legacy, we present a playlist of hits he had a hand in creating as a singer, guitarist and songwriter.