(AP) A biographer for country music superstar Eddy Arnold says the singer has died at the age of 89.
Belmont University Professor Don Cusic says Arnold died at a care facility near Nashville Thursday morning. Arnold was just days short of his 90th birthday.
Arnold's mellow baritone on songs like "Make the World Go Away" - a crossover hit on the pop charts in 1965 - made him one of the most successful country singers in history.
He became a pioneer of "The Nashville Sound," also called "countrypolitan," a mixture of country and pop styles.
He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966. The following year, he was the first person to receive the entertainer of the year award from the Country Music Association.
The reference book "Top Country Singles 1944-1993," by Joel Whitburn, ranked Arnold the No. 1 country singer in terms of overall success on the Billboard country charts. It lists his first No. 1 hit as "It's a Sin," 1947, and for the following year ranks his "Bouquet of Roses" as the biggest hit of the entire year.
Other hits included "Cattle Call," "The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me," "Anytime," "What's He Doing in My World?" "I Want to Go With You," "Somebody Like Me," "Lonely Again" and "Turn the World Around."
Most of his hits were done in association with famed guitarist Chet Atkins, the producer on most of the recording sessions.
The late Dinah Shore once described his voice as like "warm butter and syrup being poured over wonderful buttermilk pancakes."
Reflecting on his career, he said he never copied anyone.
"I really had an idea about how I wanted to sing from the very beginning," he said.
He revitalized his career in the 1960s by adding strings, a controversial move for a country artist back then.
"I got to thinking, if I just took the same kind of songs I'd been singing and added violins to them, I'd have a new sound. They cussed me, but the disc jockeys grabbed it. ... The artists began to say, `Aww, he's left us.' Then within a year, they were doing it!"
Arnold was born May 15, 1918, on a farm near Henderson, Tenn., the son of a sharecropper. He sang on radio stations in Jackson, Tenn., Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis before becoming nationally known.
Early in his career, his manager was Col. Tom Parker, who later became Elvis Presley's manager.
His image was always that of a modest, clean-cut country boy.
"You cannot satisfy all the people," he once said. "They have an image of me. Some people think I'm Billy Graham's half brother, but I'm not. I want people to get this hero thing off their mind and just let me be me."
Survivors include a son and daughter.
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