Harlan Howard, the country songwriter who wrote "I Fall to Pieces," "Busted," and more than 100 other hits, died yesterday (March 3) in Nashville. He was 74 and had suffered from heart trouble, accord

Harlan Howard, the country songwriter who wrote "I Fall to Pieces," "Busted," and more than 100 other hits, died yesterday (March 3) in Nashville. He was 74 and had suffered from heart trouble, according to his widow Melanie.

Howard, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997, wrote such timeless songs as "I Fall to Pieces," recorded by Patsy Cline and other artists; "Busted," a Grammy-winning hit for Ray Charles; and other hits such as "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," "The Key's in the Mailbox," and "Heartaches by the Number." More than 100 of his songs reached the top-10 of Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

Other stars who have recorded his songs range from Kitty Wells and Johnny Cash to Patty Loveless, Rodney Crowell, and Reba McEntire. Varied artists such as Charles, Brenda Lee, Shirley Caesar, and Burl Ives had pop hits with his songs as well.

Howard's talents were so legendary on Music Row that for years, the community celebrated the Harlan Howard Birthday Bash, an all-star concert and outdoor picnic that was a benefit for songwriter organizations. George Jones, Buck Owens, Glen Campbell, the Judds, Jimmy Dickens, and Conway Twitty were just some of the stars who sang Howard's songs at the celebration over the years.

Born in Detroit, Howard became captivated by the music of Ernest Tubb and began writing songs. He was living in Los Angeles when cowboy stars Tex Ritter and Johnny Bond signed him to their song publishing company after hearing some of his songs. Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Walker launched Howard's hit-writing career by recording "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" in 1958. The following year, "Heartaches by the Number" topped both the country and the pop hit parades in versions by Ray Price and Guy Mitchell.

Howard moved to Nashville in 1960, becoming one of the first full-time songwriters in the city. At one point in 1961, Howard had 15 songs on the country charts at the same time, a record that stands. He won a Grammy for "Busted" in 1963. Trisha Yearwood and Aaron Neville won a Grammy for their 1994 revival of "I Fall to Pieces."

Howard recorded a few albums of his own in the 1960s, but the finest collection of his songs came with a 1967 tribute album by Waylon Jennings, titled "Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan." During his career, Jennings -- who died last month at 64 -- recorded more than 40 of Howard's songs.

Howard was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. His career stalled for a few years, but was revived in 1982 when singer John Conlee revived "Busted" and recorded two other Howard songs. A new generation of Nashville stars then began singing his songs.


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