Age is just a number, and for people who love what they do for a career, that’s not what keeps them from doing what they love, no matter what their age.
I’ve written about great country music performers often, and no list of their top musicians would be complete without legendary singer and pianist Ronnie Milsap.
He was one of the most influential performers of country music of the 1970s and 1980s. He went on to become one of the most successful and versatile crossover country singers of his time.
It appealed to both country and pop music genres with chart tops that incorporated elements of pop, R&B and rock & roll.
His biggest crossover hits include “It Was Almost Lie a Song”, “Smokey Mountain Rain”, “(There’s) No Gettin ‘Over Me”, “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World”, “Any Day Now” , and “Stranger in my house”.
It has won six Grammy Awards and ranked 35 No.1 songs on the Billboard Country charts, third only behind George Strait and Conway Twitty. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014.
Milsap was born January 16, 1943 in Robbinsville, North Carolina. A congenital disorder left him almost completely blind from birth. Abandoned by his mother as a child, he was raised in poverty by his grandparents in the Smokey Mountains until he was sent to Gov. Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the age of 5.
During his childhood, Milsap developed a passion for music, most notably through late night radio shows of country, gospel and rhythm & blues music. When he was 7 years old, his instructors noticed his musical talents.
Soon after, he began to study classical music formally at the Gov. Morehead School and learned several instruments, eventually mastering the piano. When he was 14, an accident at the home of one of the school parents caused him to lose his very limited vision in his left eye.
With Elvis Presley’s national breakthrough in 1956, Milsap became interested in rock & roll and formed a rock band called “The Apparitions” along with other high school students.
In concert, Milsap has often paid tribute to the musicians of the 1950s who inspired him, including Presley, Ray Charles, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Milsap received a full college scholarship and briefly attended Young Harris College in Young Harris, Georgia, with the intention of becoming a lawyer.
During this time, Milsap joined the popular local R&B group “The Dimensions” which performed in the Atlanta area. He became a regular attraction at the Royal Peacock Club, rough and rowdy.
At two years of his 80th birthday, Milsap remains very active on the music scene. He recently released his new album “A Better Word for Love” and will begin a 22-city tour on August 27 in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It will end on December 11 in McMinnville, Tenn. The tour will take place in 20 states across the country, including the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.
He’s living proof that as long as you do what you love and the public wants to see you play, you never get old.