Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Easy Livin' ... To Easy Loving

Yesterday we featured the 1972 Uriah Heep Hit "Easy Livin'" ... so today we figured that the NATURAL follow-up would be to spotlight 1971's Freddie Hart tune "Easy Loving".

Hart topped Billboard's Country Chart for three weeks with this ballad ... but it also crossed over in a big way to the pop charts, peaking at #12 in Cash Box Magazine and rising to #17 in Billboard.

Freddie's chart career began back in 1959. (By then he was already 33 years old!) He hit Billboard's Country Top 40 nearly forty times over the next 22 years and "Easy Loving" became the first of six consecutive #1 songs on Billboard's Country Chart. (That string included Easy Loving; My Hang-Up Is You; Bless Your Heart; Got The All Overs For You; Super Kind Of Woman and Trip To Heaven.) Ironically, he never hit the pop charts again (which officially makes him a One Hit Wonder in OUR book!!!)

You'd be hard pressed to find another artist with as diverse a career outside of music as Freddie Hart. Born Frederick Segrest in Lochapoka, Alabama, in 1926, Freddie was one of fifteen children. He learned to play the guitar when he was just five years old. He quit school when he was twelve and ran away from home, taking odd jobs like picking cotton, washing dishes, laying pipeline and working in sawmills, steel mills and on oil rigs to earn a living and survive. When he was just fourteen years old, he lied about his age and enlisted into the United States Marines. Hart saw action during World War II, serving in Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Guam. After being discharged from The Marines, Freddy began working as a self-defense instructor at The Los Angeles Police Academy, where he earned a black belt in karate. (He also mastered judo and jujitzu!) In 1950, he moved to Phoenix and a year later was working as a guitar player with country legend Lefty Frizzell (who also let him take a crack at the microphone as a singer from time to time.) For a short while, he was even a TV star, appearing regularly on the "Town Hall Party" television series.

"Easy Loving" was a track buried on side two of Freddie's 1969 album "California Grapevine." Two years later, a disc jockey named Jim Clemens started playing the song on his WPLO Atlanta radio program and all of a sudden, it started to click. The attraction soon spread to other country radio stations across the country and Capitol Records quickly released it as a single (followed up by a hastily put together album of the same name, gathering tracks from some of Freddie's earlier releases.) Before long, the song crossed-over to the pop charts, too, and, when all was said and done, Freddie Hart, at the ripe old age of 45, had a major hit record on his hands. "Easy Loving" went on to sell over a million copies and won The Country Music Association's "Song Of The Year" award in both 1971 and 1972. During his long career, Hart also wrote hits for a number of other country artists, including Patsy Cline, George Jones, Buck Owens and Porter Wagoner. (He says he was first inspired to try songwriting when he met Hank Williams back in 1951, explaining his songwriting philosophy this way: “I try to put down in my songs what every man wants to say, and what every woman wants to hear." Clearly, it worked.

After his records stopped having an impact on the country charts, Freddie successfully raised fruit and cattle, owned his own trucking company, opened a chain of karate instruction studios and ran a school for handicapped children. He continued to record sporadically, even releasing a couple of Gospel albums, but rarely makes singing appearances today. It's said that Freddie is a self-made millionaire, several times over. All in all, a pretty successful life for a boy who left home at twelve to find his own way!