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Ronda Rich: Life lessons from a songwriting master
ronda rich
Ronda Ronda Rich is the author of "Theres A Better Day A-Comin." - photo by File photo

Ronda Rich

Syndicated Columnist

Several years ago, I cohosted a radio show that was recorded in a studio on Nashville’s famed Music Row.

Top on my wish list of guests was songwriter Rodney Crowell.

His songs range from light and fun to deep and thought provoking.

“Cool” – a word I seldom use to describe a person – is perfect for Rodney Crowell.

Raised in Houston, Crowell came to Nashville after being discovered by Jerry Reed. Nashville was “a cold splash of water” in his face, he admitted. When Emmylou Harris, who had recorded his song, “Blueberry Wine,” offered a spot in her legendary Hot Band, he hightailed it for Los Angeles.

Nashville was a natural fit for Crowell because it appreciated his Kris Kristofferson-way of writing a country song that could be country or pop. So, a few years later, he returned to Music City and found himself comfortably amidst the “in” group.

Crowell, for several years, was a recording artist. In 1988, his fifth studio album, recorded in Nashville with top musicians, was co-produced by Crowell and Tony Brown, who made his mark by producing George Strait and Reba McEntire.

This album, “Diamonds and Dirt,” remains one of my favorites. It will be remembered for much including five number one songs, tremendous critical acclaim, and commercial reception which turned it into a platinum seller. It included, “She’s Crazy For Leaving,” which he co-wrote with his mentor, Guy Clark, and “It’s Such A Small World,” a duet with Rosanne.

One of my longest, most precious friends, Judi Turner, handled Rodney’s publicity on that album so my first call was to her.

“Let me see if I can track him down,” she said.

I also tried two other mutual friends. Within a few hours, I received an email that said simply, “Are you looking for me?”

Rodney Crowell! I still have the email. I wrote back, asking him to guest on the show. He readily agreed. It became two of my memorable hours in life.

We talked about hit songs he wrote including, “Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight” and the smash, multi-awarded, “Please Remember Me,” sung by Tim McGraw.

He explained that he tried not to pay much attention to critics, good or bad. We agreed – it’s distracting.

I said, “Yeah, the problem is that my fans keep dyin’ and my critics keep goin’ strong.”

He nearly fell out of his seat, laughing. “I might find a song in that.”

In the years since that day, Crowell has continued to write hit songs, critically acclaimed songs, and won a Grammy for an album with Emmylou called “Old Yellow Moon.” I recommend it.

Rodney Crowell is country music’s version of Paul McCartney.

Medium height, lean, and always has a modish shag of hair which has now turned to silver. He has not slowed down with his writing. At 23, he pretended to have wisdom in “Song For A Life,” a hit, years later, for Alan Jackson. I love the line, “I’ve learned to listen for a sound like the sun going down.”

These days, he writes from hardearned wisdom. In our interview that day, he shared admirable stories of being Johnny Cash’s son-in-law (he and Rosanne divorced years ago) including the day he met Cash.

Crowell and Rosanne had been living together in L.A. They flew to Cash’s home in Jamaica for the meeting.

“I was nervous,” he laughed. “I drank a lot of whiskey on the plane so I was pretty cocky by the time we landed.”

Cash showed him to his bedroom, making it clear that Rosanne would be elsewhere.

“I pulled myself up. ‘We will be in the same room.’” Cash eyed him seriously. “Son, I don’t know you well enough to miss you when you’re gone.”

Crowell laughed. “I learned a lot from John. Boy, I miss him.”

I’m glad that Crowell continues to write. I’d hate to have to miss him.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the new novel: “ST. SIMONS ISLAND: a Stella Bankwell Mystery.”

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