born on 8/9/1927 in Detroit, MI, United States
died on 3/3/2002 in Nashville, TN, United States
Harlan Perry Howard (September 8, 1927 – March 3, 2002) was an American songwriter, principally in country music. In a career spanning six decades, Howard wrote a large number of popular and enduring songs, recorded by a variety of different artists. Howard was married to country singer Jan Howard. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
Howard was born on September 8, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up on a farm in Kentucky. As a child he listened to the Grand Ole Opry radio show. In later years Howard recalled the personal formative influence of country music:
I was captured by the songs as much as the singer. They grabbed my heart. The reality of country music moved me. Even when I was a kid, I liked the sad songs… songs that talked about true life. I recognized this music as a simple plea. It beckoned me.
Howard completed only nine years of formal education, though he was an avid reader. When he was 12 years of age Harlan began writing songs, "an enthusiasm fueled by an appetite for books and an ear for a telling phrase.”
After serving as a paratrooper with the United States Army, he went to Los Angeles, California, hoping to sell his music.
Howard did manual labor while writing songs and pushing his finished material. Eventually he sold some of his compositions and, after a few minor successes, his song, "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down", recorded by Charlie Walker, went to No. 2 on the country music charts in late 1958. A year later Ray Price had a major country hit with "Heartaches By The Number". Simultaneously, a pop version of the song performed by Guy Mitchell went to No. 1 on the pop chart. Buoyed by these two major hits, Howard moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1960. Bringing along a large portfolio of compositions, he signed a contract with Acuff-Rose Music. Howard's songs were so immediately successful that, in 1961 alone, he had fifteen of his compositions on the country music charts, earning him ten BMI awards. Among his biggest hits was "I Fall to Pieces", co-written with Hank Cochran and recorded by Patsy Cline. Cline also recorded his "He Called Me Baby", which was later a No. 1 C&W hit for Charlie Rich as "She Called Me Baby".
Though not often thought of as a writer of rhythm and blues songs, Howard wrote Joe Simon's #1 R&B chart hit "The Chokin' Kind", a million-selling record in 1969.
Howard also wrote the classic Kingston Trio song "Everglades", and the song "Busted", originally a hit for both Ray Charles and Johnny Cash and later a hit for John Conlee who used the song to create awareness for Feed the Children. The song "The Wall", also became a hit for Johnny Cash on his studio album, Orange Blossom Special, as well as his Live at Folsom Prison album.
Howard formulated the oft-quoted definition of a great country song: "Three chords and the truth."
Howard was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. He died in 2002, aged 74, and was buried in Nashville City Cemetery.
- 1961: Harlan Howard Sings Harlan Howard
- 1965: All Time Favorite Country Songwriter
- 1967: Mr. Songwriter
- 1967: Down to Earth
- 1971: To the Silent Majority with Love
- 1981: Singer and Songwriter
Songs written or co-written by Harlan Howard.
- Above and Beyond (the Call of Love)
- Blame It On Your Lyin' Cheatin' Heart co-written with Kostas
- Chokin' Kind
- Call Me Mr In-Between
- Don't Call Me From A Honky Tonk Bar
- Don't Tell Me What To Do (I'll Love You Forever If I Want To) co-written with Max D. Barnes
- Evil Off My Mind
- Evil on Your Mind
- Excuse Me (I Think I've Got A Heartache) co-written with Alvis Owens, Jr.
- Foolin' Round co-written with Buck Owens
- He/She Called Me Baby
- She's Gone, Gone, Gone
- Heartaches By The Number
- Heartbreak U.S.A.
- Hurtin's All Over
- I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today
- I Don't Know A Thing About Love (The Moon Song)
- I Don't Remember Loving You co-written with Robert Braddock
- I Fall To Pieces
- I Wish I Could Fall In Love Today
- I Won't Forget You
- It's All Over co-written with Jan Howard
- The Key's In The Mailbox
- Life Turned Her That Way
- Mommy For A Day co-written with Buck Owens
- No Charge
- Odds And Ends
- Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
- Second Hand Rose co-written with Grant Clarke and James Hanley
- She's A Little Bit Country
- Somebody Should Leave co-written with Chick Rains
- Somewhere Tonight co-written with Rodney Crowell
- Streets Of Baltimore co-written with Tompall Glaser
- These Lips Don't Know How To Say Goodbye
- Three Steps To The Phone (Millions Of Miles)
- Tiger By The Tail co-written with Buck Owens
- Time Won't Tell co-written with Beth Nielsen Chapman
- Too Many Rivers
- Under The Influence Of Love co-written with Buck Owens
- What A Merry Christmas This Could Be
- Why Not Me co-written with Brent Maher and Sonny Throckmorton
- You Comb Her Hair co-written with Hank Cochran
- You Took Him Off My Hands (Now Please Take Him Off My Mind) co-written with Skeets McDonald and Wynn Stewart
- Your Heart Turned Left And I Went Right
- Yours Love
- Streets of Baltimore
- Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan
- Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard
- ‘Obituary: Harlan Howard’, Paul Wadey, The Independent (London), 6 March 2002.
- ‘Harlan Howard’, Harlan Howard web-site.
- ‘Cindy Walker: Country songwriter’, obituary written by Paul Wadey, The Independent, 27 March 2006.
- Songwriters Hall of Fame
- Howard at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum