Don Schlitz is among the most influential and beloved songwriters in the history of country music. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Country Music’s highest honor, in 2017.
Don’s chart-topping songs — among them “The Gambler,” “On the Other Hand,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”, “The Greatest,” and “When You Say Nothing At All” — have been recorded by Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, The Judds, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tanya Tucker, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss, and many others.
He has won three CMA Song of the Year awards, two Academy of Country Music Song of the Year prizes, two Grammy Awards. Schlitz was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (with Bob Seger and Gordon Lightfoot) in 2012.
Born Donald Alan Schlitz, Jr. on Aug. 29, 1952, and raised in Durham, N.C., Schlitz briefly attended Duke University before coming to Nashville at the age of twenty. His talent was recognized and fostered early on by greats including Bob McDill and Bobby Bare, and he emerged as an empathetic and intelligent chronicler of the human spirit. When Rogers recorded “The Gambler,” (Don’s first recorded song!) Schlitz’s ascent was assured, and the success of that enduring story-song allowed him the freedom to spend a lifetime writing words and music that articulated the extraordinary emotions inherent in common experience.
Schlitz has written vital and relevant songs for forty years, across five decades. In entering the Country Music Hall of Fame, he joins an exclusive circle of songwriters that includes Bobby Braddock, Cindy Walker, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, Hank Cochran, and Harlan Howard.
Schlitz and his co-writers penned “Rockin’ with the Rhythm of the Rain,” “Forty Hour Week (for a Livin’), “Houston Solution,” “Deeper Than the Holler,” “One Promise Too Late,” “I Feel Lucky,” “Old School,” “Give Me Wings,” “Strong Enough To Bend,” and scores of other songs that underscore the depth and breadth of modern-era country music.
One of the first performers at Amy Kurland’s iconic songwriter club, The Bluebird Café, Schlitz and friends Thom Schuyler, J. Fred Knobloch, and Paul Overstreet, originated the now-ubiquitous songwriter “in the round” format in 1985. He continues to regularly perform his hits and new material at The Bluebird, interspersed with his wry wit and unique comic timing. For the past several years, Don has been a frequent guest at The Grand Ole Opry, which he says “is the thrill of my lifetime, to hear the audience sing with me, and to know that the folks all over the world, listening on the radio, are singing along, too.”
And perhaps Kenny Rogers, when inducting Don into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, said it best: “Don doesn’t just write songs, he writes careers,”
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