Jim Weatherly, “Midnight Train to Georgia” Songwriter, Dead at 77

Jim Weatherly, famed songwriter of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” died February 3 at the age of 77. No cause death was given.

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Weatherly’s niece, Catherine Hicks, confirmed the news in a Facebook post:

“My “Uncle Jimmy,” as I called him, has been called home to be with His Heavenly Father. Jimmy was undeniably so special in our family… He was a brother to my Mom, my Uncle Shan Weatherly, and my Aunt Sherrie Winter. He was also, I know, like a father figure to them. He was an incredible athlete, and an incredibly musically talented man: all gifts given to him from the Lord. And He always gave all glory to God for these gifts as well as such a thanks to his family and upbringing. He was “famous,” but so very humble. I loved how he used to show us kids magic tricks, how he would take us in his studio to listen to his latest musical project, and how he was always coming home to spend time with his extended family. And, I know my Mom would agree in this statement: Jimmy always took care of his family. He was there for his own Mother and anyone in deepest need. We are grateful for Jim’s love and his legacy will continue to live on.”

Best known for penning the Gladys Knight and the Pips hit, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” Weatherly wrote additional songs for the group, including “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” also recorded by Ray Price.

Born in Pontotoc, Mississippi on March 17, 1943, Weatherly began writing songs and forming bands in high school where he was an all-star quarterback. He later became the starting quarterback at the University of Mississippi, where he led the team to defend their Southeastern Conference championship.

Following graduation from Ole Miss, Weatherly decided to leave football and focus on his music. It was then that he wrote the hit “Midnight Train to Georgia.” However, the original version of the song was titled, “Midnight Plane to Houston,” an idea inspired by the relationship of Lee Majors and Farah Fawcett, which came from a phone call with his friend, Majors.

“We were just talking, and she said she was packing. She was gonna take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks,” Weatherly told the Wall Street Journal in 2013. “So, it just stayed with me. A girl comes to L.A. to make it and doesn’t make it and leaves to go back home. The guy goes back with her. Pretty simple little story, but it felt real to me. It felt honest to me.”

After asking to change the name of the song, to which Weatherly agreed as long as the rest of the song stayed the same, Cissy Houston put her vocals to the tune. It was when Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded that song that it went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Soul Singles chart. The song later won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Within his 50 years of songwriting, Weatherly released over 10 albums of his own, including 1972’s Weatherly and 2008’s Autumn Lights. His single, “I’ll Still Love You,” release in 1975 made it to No. 9 on the Billboard charts.

In 2006, Weatherly was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2014 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2011, Weatherly was immortalized in the Mississippi Hall of Fame.

His songs were recorded by artists such as Ray Price, who recorded 38 songs of Weatherly’s tunes, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks.

Weatherly is survived by his wife Cynthia, and his children, Zack and Brighton.

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