Friday, February 18, 2005

COUNTRYOBIT: The death has been announced of Jewel "Sammi" Smith.

Smith had quit school when just 11, making a fair living and a bad marriage in the clubs of the US southwest. Following a divorce, she took Johnny Cash's advice and relocated to Nashville, where she signed a deal and found her first taste of chart action with So Long Charlie Brown. Her real breakthrough came with her 1970 reading of Kris Kirstofferson's Help me Make It Through The Night got her a crossover top 10 hit, and a Grammy.

Sammi was also writing, and created Cedartown Georgia for Waylon Jennings; Jennings had a hit with the track and its success persuaded Smith to relocate to Dallas to join Jennings and Willie Nelson's Outlaw Movement. She never quite matched the level of national acclaim as she did at the start of the 70s, but still scored a run of country hits with songs like Loving Arms and Norma Jean into the 1980s.

A frequent visitor to an Apache reservation in Arizona - her Apache heritage was an important part of her life - Smith died at home in Oklahoma. She was 61.

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