This day in 1995: Charlie Rich died in his sleep in a Hammond, Louisiana motel. The cause of death was listed as a blood clot in a lung. He was 62.
In the later part of his life, Rich acquired the nickname the Silver Fox. He is perhaps best remembered for a pair of 1973 hits, “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl”. “The Most Beautiful Girl” topped the U.S. country singles charts, as well as the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles charts and earned him two Grammy Awards. Rich was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015.
Epic Records signed Rich in 1967, mainly on the recommendation of producer Billy Sherrill. Sherrill helped Rich refashion himself as a Nashville Sound balladeer during an era when old rock ‘n’ roll artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Conway Twitty were finding a new musical home in the country and western format. This new “countrypolitan” Rich sound paid off in the summer of 1972, when “I Take It on Home” went to number six on the country charts. The title track from his 1973 album Behind Closed Doors became a number-one country hit early in that year, then crossing over into the top 20 on the pop charts. This time, his follow-up single did not disappoint, as “The Most Beautiful Girl” spent three weeks at the top of the country charts and two weeks at the top of the pop charts. Now that he was established as a country music star, Behind Closed Doors won three awards from the Country Music Association that year: Best Male Vocalist, Album of the Year, and Single of the Year. The album was also certified gold. Rich won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, and he took home four Academy of Country Music awards. One of RCA Records several resident songwriters, Marvin Walters, co-wrote for three years with Charlie, producing four recordings including the very popular “Set Me Free”.
After “The Most Beautiful Girl,” number-one hits came quickly, as five songs topped the country charts in 1974 and crossed over to the pop charts. The songs were “There Won’t Be Anymore” (pop number 18), “A Very Special Love Song” (pop number 11), “I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore” (pop number 47), “I Love My Friend” (pop number 24), and “She Called Me Baby” (pop number 47). Both RCA Records and Mercury Records (Smash was a subsidiary of Mercury which was absorbed into the main company in 1970) re-released his previously recorded material from the mid-1960s, as well. All of this success led the CMA to name him Entertainer of the Year in 1974. In the same year he performed the Academy Award-nominated theme song “I Feel Love (Benji’s Theme)” from the film Benji. Rich had three more top-five hits in 1975.
In 1995, Rich and his wife were driving to Florida for a vacation after seeing their son Allan perform with Freddy Fender at Lady Luck Casino in Natchez, Mississippi, when he experienced a bout of severe coughing. After visiting a doctor in St. Francisville, Louisiana, and receiving antibiotics, he continued traveling until he stopped to rest for the night. Rich died in his sleep on July 25, 1995, in a Hammond, Louisiana, motel; he was 62 years old. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. He was buried in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.
At the time of his death, Rich was survived by his wife of 43 years, Margaret, two sons and two daughters, and three grandchildren. Margaret Rich died in Germantown, Tennessee, on July 22, 2010, and was buried alongside her husband.