Joe South, the singer whose gospel-lite anthem "Games People Play" reached No. 12 in 1969 and won a Grammy for Song of the Year, passed away Wednesday after being in "failing health," the country-music Web site musicrow.com reported. He was 70.
For a brief time, the Atlanta native (born Joseph Souter) was an unsung superstar of country-soul. He also wrote Billy Joe Royal's "Down In the Boondocks"; "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," which Lynn Anderson made a country-pop smash in 1971; "Walk a Mile In My Shoes," a fixture of Elvis' '70s set lists; and "Hush," which Deep Purple turned into a hard-rock FM radio hit and was covered by '90s Britpop band Kula Shaker.
South began performing at age 12 on Atlanta radio station WYST. He recorded the 1958 novelty single "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor" became an in-demand session musician who played guitar on Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" and Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence."
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South's career went off track after his brother committed suicide in 1971, but he began performing again in the mid-'90s. According to allmusic.com, "he once suggested that audience members start dancing around the concert hall and kiss his ass as they approached the stage."
He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979. Information on survivors was unavailable.