A country artist who transcended his world

Special to The Times

Several years ago on a flight to Los Angeles, Eddy Arnold was asked by the first-class flight attendant what he "did" for a living. With no hint of ego or delusion he answered, "Why, I'm Eddy Arnold."

And such was his fame. While others worked really hard to achieve theirs, Arnold just sang. He wrote and recorded some of the most beautiful music ever. There were no rhinestone suits, no affairs with movie stars, no drug problems, no nothing . . . just great music. And the numbers don't lie. His songs have spent more time on the charts than everybody else's. Everybody!

His songs embodied a subtle elegance and sophistication that transcended country music. His easy phrasing turned songs like "Make the World Go Away," "Welcome to My World" and "You Don't Know Me" into "pop" standards, prompting other great, distinctive singers like Ray Charles, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra to record them themselves.

As a songwriter, that achievement alone is worthy of a bust in the Hall of Fame. His accomplishments are staggering and well documented. But what's most impressive is how he did it. In a world where apparently anybody can be famous for no good reason, Arnold was famous for the right ones.

Early in my career, I had the pleasure (or audacity, really) of singing "Make the World Go Away" for a television show taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Several months after that, I had the good fortune of meeting Arnold. He leaned into me to tell me how much he enjoyed my version of his song. I bragged about that for months. Apparently I haven't stopped.


Raul Malo is the former lead singer of the alt-country band the Mavericks and is now a solo artist working in a number of genres.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World