"He was such a gentle soul, and had such a giving heart," says Wayne Warner, who worked with Sharp on two albums.
The recent passing of country musician Kevin Sharp has not only impacted his devoted fanbase, but also his fellow artists, many of whom called Sharp a friend.
Sharp, who defied the odds in a well-publicized battle with cancer in the 1990s prior to becoming a hit artist on the Billboard country charts, has died on April 19 at the age of 43.
One such performer who got to know Sharp well is Wayne Warner. The singer met Sharp in the early 2000s and worked with him on two different albums -- “God Bless The Children” in 2006 and “Dare The World” in 2009. Warner reflects upon his friendship with Sharp in this exclusive interview with Billboard.
“I had been talking with him for the past four months quite a bit. I knew he was sick, but I didn’t know until the last couple of weeks that he wasn’t going to recover. He was afraid that he wasn’t going to sing again, so we were working on doing one last recording, but it never didn’t happen,” Warner says sadly.
The first recording to feature Sharp and Warner was “God Bless The Children,” a song that Warner wrote and recorded to help benefit adoption awareness through the Dave Thomas Foundation. The track featured Sharp and many other artists, including Country Music Hall of Fame members Jimmy Fortune and the Jordanaires, as well as a pre-stardom Taylor Swift.
Warner recalls that Sharp was not in the best of health that day, but he rose to the challenge.
“He literally came there in a wheelchair, and stood on the platform for about six hours,” he says. “He never complained and did it with a smile. Anything at all that contributed to helping anybody, he would suffer through. That told me who he was as an artist and a man. I became such a fan of him as a person and a recording artist.”
Despite his health battles, Warner says that Sharp never brought it up until recently.
“He never would talk about his illnesses over the years, except in the last couple of months,” he says. “He spoke about his decline and being in the hospital and not being able to eat. They had him on fluids. He was trying to sing, but didn’t have the energy to do it.”
Another memory of working with Sharp came in 2009 with the release of “Dare The World,” which also featured Mark Collie, Bryan White, and Linda Davis.
“All I had to do was go back and watch the video to see how much fun Kevin was having that day,” Warner remembers. “He was just a joy to work with. If he wasn’t feeling well, you wouldn’t know it. He was such a gentle soul, and had such a giving heart. I will miss my friend, and a lot of people will too! He was an amazing soul!”
One artist that was a part of “Dare The World” was Jimmy Fortune, who’s famous for his 20-year stint as tenor singer for the Statler Brothers. Speaking from the road in East Tennessee Thursday morning (April 24), Fortune reflected on their friendship.
“I didn’t really get to know Kevin that well until a couple years back,” Fortune says. “We did a cruise together back in 2007. I remember his spirit. He had been through so much, and I remember us sitting on the ship and talking about our faith and our families. Those were the things that were the most important in his life, and what helped get him through.”
One thing that stands out in Fortune’s mind about Sharp was the amount of time he devoted to charities like Make-A-Wish.
“He fought for so many causes. To feel his spirit was a blessing for me,” he says. “That was his first and foremost thing -- How could he help other people? It was a blessing to get to know him, and see what he was all about. He was put here for a reason -- he brought us some great music and singing, but he also brought us a great sense of strength for us to carry on through the hard times. My boy Jimmy is disabled, and he related to Kevin Sharp so much, as he was so good to him.”
When you worked with Sharp, Fortune says, you could just sense the zest and the spark that he had for his life and career – until the end.
“We had a good time. He was always carrying on about something,” Fortune says. “We actually started to write a song, which I need to get out -- because we never did finish it. At that time, he was trying to start writing in Nashville again, but his health got the best of him. He was walking one day, and his leg just broke. There was no reason for it. He called me and said ‘I wanted to come back in town and finish the song, but my leg just broke without a warning.’ He was never able to come back to Nashville after that, but he put up the good fight. His presence in this world is going to be missed, for sure.”