"I had the airplay record of the year, and I almost died," singer-songwriter recalls of recurring health scares.
Any artist will tell you that professional success does not always run parallel to being on top of the world on a personal level. Veteran Nashville songwriter Jimbeau Hinson can attest to this: in 1995, David Lee Murphy made his “Party Crowd” single one of the most played at country radio that year. However, Hinson was in the fight of his life.
“That was a roller coaster ride for sure,” he told Billboard. “It was the best – and the worst year of my life. I had the airplay record of the year, and I almost died. But, I didn’t, and I’m still here.”
Diagnosed as HIV-positive in the mid-1980s, Hinson – also the writer of chart-toppers for the Oak Ridge Boys and Patty Loveless – has fought several health battles over the years, managing to do so with wit, warmth, and a little bit of humor. His new album, “Strong Medicine,” details the struggles that he has faced over the years. As a songwriter, he says that there is no better way for him to deal with the emotions than to put them in song.
“I’m a songwriter, and I always dig from within -- especially on the personal stuff,” he admits. “This is an album that chronicles my private journey with being HIV-positive since 1985, living in secret for 12 years, wasting away to skin and bones twice, as well as losing a lot of friends.”
Hinson admits the emotions cut a very wide path. “There was a lot of fear and anger, as well as a lot of growing up. It was such a gamut of emotions, a journey that I made it through. I started writing these songs back in the 1980s, with a couple of them being recent compositions. Most of them were written during that time of fear and worry, and most are songs of fortitude, forgiveness, and monogamy – and striving to just survive.”
The title cut was one that he penned at the beginning of his diagnosis. “It was before it was even called HIV. I was one of the first persons tested, and the first one to test positive in my native state of Mississippi. They didn’t even know how it was spread back then. There was just a rumor that something was going around that was killing people. There were no meds, no tests or anything. The only thing that could get you through it was love. After all these years and all the medical breakthroughs, I think love still is the strongest medicine.”
The songs on "Strong Medicine" all demonstrate a sense of strength and determination. Tracks like “Dance Of Life” and “When You Give Up You’re Gone," were written about Hinson’s personal journey but could also inspire anyone facing dissimilar obstacles -- at least that’s what Hinson hopes listeners will come away feeling after hearing the album.
“I would like for it to be a light in someone else’s darkness," Hinson says. "To let people know they are not alone no matter what they are going through -- whether it’s a divorce, cancer, or whatever. I tried to write these songs where they weren’t specifically about HIV or AIDS -- they’re just about trials and tribulations that we go through in life. The most important weapon that we can have in our toolbox is to be positive, and to be optimistic, and to look for the good in others as well as yourself, and to forgive others, and especially yourself. I hope it speaks to whoever needs to hear that message.”
The album ends on a very positive note -- the beautiful “Waiting At The Gate,” a song dedicated to his wife of 33 years, Brenda. “I wanted to write a song about my love for my wife. She’s the most wonderful person in the world, my soulmate. I guess it was my version of 'Waiting On A Woman.' It starts off with me waiting at the airport for her to come home from somewhere, and me missing her. I take it all the way to the gates of Heaven, where I’ll be waiting on her there too.”