Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Gray's personal website confirms the news. No cause of death was listed.
According to Gray's site, he was born into a sharecropping family in Texas in 1940 and grew up surrounded by music. He later moved to Los Angeles and for a time worked with Sonny Bono, then A&R manager for Specialty Records. He also worked as an actor.
Gray's other songs included "Look at Me," "The 'In' Crowd," and "Loving Arms," but nothing hit as big as the wonderfully wistful "Drift Away," which sold over a million copies. It was actually first recorded by little-known John Henry Kurtz, but it was Gray's version that is most remembered. It's often played as a last song at concerts.
The song is almost best known not by its title, but by the repeated lyric, "Gimme the Beat, Boys," often misheard as "Gimme the Beach Boys." Gray's website even features a "Nancy" comic strip in which Sluggo sings the "Beach Boys" version of the lyric, then argues with Nancy about the actual words.
"Drift Away" has been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Ray Charles. The Rolling Stones reportedly recorded it, but never released their version, and rumors that the Beatles recorded the tune are false (they had already broken up by the time Gray recorded it). In 2003, Gray himself sang the final verse on Uncle Kracker's version of the song, which spent a record-setting 28 weeks atop the U.S. adult contemporary chart.
Posted by Michael Godin at 7:34 AM