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Paul Craft dies at 76; songwriter of ‘Dropkick Me, Jesus,’ other hits

Paul Craft, a country musician recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, died Saturday. He was 76.
(RCA Records / Associated Press)

Paul Craft, a country music songwriter who was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame this month, has died in Tennessee. He was 76.

Craft, who had been in declining health, died Saturday at the Nashville hospital where he had been admitted Oct. 5, after briefly appearing that evening at a Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Music City Center.

Among his most well-known songs were “Dropkick Me, Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life),” “Brother Jukebox,” “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life” and “It’s Me Again, Margaret,” one of comedian Ray Stevens’ signature songs.

Craft recorded some of his songs, but most were covered by other musicians, sometimes outside traditional country music boundaries. “Midnight Flyer” appeared on the Eagles’ 1974 album “On the Border,” and Linda Ronstadt recorded “Keep Me From Blowing Away” on “Heart Like a Wheel,” also released in 1974.

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He had his greatest chart success with “Brother Jukebox,” which Mark Chesnutt took to No. 1 in 1991. Moe Bandy’s rendition of “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life” reached No. 2 in 1976. That song and “Dropkick Me, Jesus,” recorded by Bobby Bare in 1976, were nominated for Grammys.

Alison Krauss also had a bluegrass hit with Craft’s “Teardrops Will Kiss the Morning Dew.”

Craft’s obituary in Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper noted that he was a “proud member of Mensa,” a group for people whose IQ is in the top 2% of the population. Profiles of Craft over the years often noted his clever compositions and narrative lyrics common to classic country songs.

“Brother Jukebox” opens this way:

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Brother jukebox, sister wine

Mother freedom, father of time

Since she left me, by myself

You’re the only family, I’ve got left.

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Craft was born Aug. 12, 1938, and taught himself to play musical instruments while growing up in Proctor, Ark., Memphis and Richmond, Va. He attended the University of Virginia and served in the Coast Guard reserve.

He managed a music store in Memphis before moving to Nashville to write songs in his late 20s.

Survivors include his companion, Robin Moore; a son, Paul C. Craft Jr., and three grandchildren.

news.obits@latimes.com

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