Robert Knight, who recorded the first version of Everlasting Love, one of the biggest songs to come out of Nashville, died Sunday after a short illness. He was 72 years old.
He was born Robert Peebles in Franklin on April 24, 1945.
As a young man, he was a member of the Fairlanes and sang lead for the Paramounts before becoming a solo artist.
In 1967, while performing during a fraternity party at Vanderbilt University, Mac Gayden heard “this voice coming from the Kappa Sigma House.” He ran over there and met Knight as he was coming off the stage. “He didn’t want to talk to me, but I gave him my card,” Gayden remembered.
Gayden introduced Knight to Buzz Cason, who signed Knight to Rising Sons Music, and they began working on an album.
Cason and Gayden had written a song called The Weeper, which they thought would be Knight’s breakout hit. But then he cut another Cason/Gayden composition: Everlasting Love. It was, Gayden said, the last song cut during the session, “kind of like a throwaway tune.”
Knight’s infectious, soaring recording became an R&B and pop hit, and a beach music staple. Over the last half-century, it has been covered by Carl Carlton, Love Affair, U2 and Gloria Estefan, among others.
“With Everlasting Love, Knight created the blueprint for one of the most famous, most enduring songs to ever come out of Music City,” said Michael Gray, a historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Recording extensively with Mac Gayden and Buzz Cason in the 1960s, Robert was working in integrated bands when it was still taboo to do so in some places. The original version of Everlasting Love is a prime example of the successful musical exchange between black and white musicians during a decade of great racial upheaval and civil rights struggles in the South.”
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SOURCE: USA Today – Juli Thanki