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Joe South appears in an undated publicity photo. - Provided courtesy of Southern Tracks Records / joesouth.com

Joe South dies at age 72: Check out 7 facts about singer

09/06/2012 by Corinne Heller

Joe South, a country rock musician who rose to fame in the 1960s and 1970s with hits such as "Games People Play" and "Walk A Mile In My Shoes," has died at age 72.

The singer and songwriter passed away after suffering a heart attack at his home in Buford, Georgia on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

"Early on September 5, 2012, the music industry lost a genius, mild mannered, giving, precious soul named 'The Reverend' Joe South," said a message posted on his website, adding that his funeral is set to take place on Saturday in Atlanta. He will be laid to rest at Mount Harmony Cemetery in the town of Mableton.

Check out 7 facts about Joe South:

1. Joe South is not the singer's real name.

South was born in Atlanta on Feb. 28, 1940 and his real name was Joseph Alfred Souter. He changed his name after he began his music career.

2. He pumped up the volume early.

The singer developed his own short-range radio station when he was a child, broadcasting to listeners up to a mile away, according to his website.

By age 12, he was performing on traditional local radio stations, according to The New York Times.

3. He is a Grammy winner.

The singer released his first single, "The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor" in 1958. His breakout hit, "Games People Play," was released in 1968 and reached the No. 12 spot on the U.S. singles chart. The song won two Grammys, which are presented by The Recording Academy.

"He was a true talent and beloved member of the music community, and we mourn his loss along with his family, friends and all of those who had the pleasure of knowing him," the group's president and CEO, Neil Portnow, said in a statement obtained by OTRC.com.

South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979 and into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981.

4. He performed with top artists and wrote songs for them.

The singer worked as a session guitarist for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel and also wrote tracks for several singers. South sung and penned the 1965 song "Down In The Boondocks," which was recorded by the likes of Billy Joe Royal and Kenny Loggins, and the 1970 hit "Walk A Mile In My Shoes," which was covered by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bryan Ferry.

5. He suffered from a personal tragedy and addiction.

In 1971, South's brother Tom, who played drums with him, committed suicide after battling drug abuse.

South battled drug abuse himself and underwent rehab. Both tragedies helped spur him to put his music career on hold for years and move to Maui.

"I was involved in them before I even knew what I was doing,'' South told The Christian Science Monitor in 1990, regarding his drug addiction. "I knew there were pills you could take that just changed your mind about everything, and you all of a sudden saw something that you didn't see before. What was happening was just the process of self-deception.''

"I didn't see myself doing [drugs] for the kicks," he said. "I did it more or less to keep going, and to tap into inspiration. I equated the chemicals with the inspiration.''

6. He turned his life around - with the help of a woman.

South is survived by a son, Craig, and a granddaughter, according to The New York Times. His first marriage ended in divorce. He married his second wife, Jan, in 1987, according to The Los Angeles Times. She died in the late 1990s.

South had met his second wife in 1986 and says she helped him turn his life around, telling The Christian Science Monitor: "It was great. She was placed in my life, and I hung my hat on her for a while."

7. He made a small music comeback in recent years ... and wrote a song about Oprah.

South made a small music comeback in 2002 with the album "Classic Masters," which contained mostly remastered tracks. In 2009, he released the country ballad "Oprah Cried." According to his website, it was written for Oprah Winfrey. The song marked South's first original recording in 35 years and is featured as a bonus track on a re-release of his fifth and sixth albums, "So the Seeds Are Growing" and "A Look Inside."

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