Singer and songwriter Dobie Gray, who had a top 5 hit in 1973 with the song “Drift Away,” has died, according to The Associated Press. Gray died in his sleep at his Nashville home Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.
The singer’s country-soul hit was a radio staple for decades, even as recently as 2003 when Uncle Kracker covered the song and reached no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Born near Houston in 1940 to a family of sharecroppers, Gray, whose real name has been listed as Leonard Victor Ainsworth and Laurence Darrow Brown, discovered gospel music through his grandfather, a Baptist minister. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s where he met Sonny Bono, who dubbed him Dobie Gray after the then popular sitcom “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”
Gray saw his first music industry success in 1965 with the single “The ‘In’ Crowd,” which reached No. 13 on the charts, but it was 1973’s country-soul “Drift Away,” with the chorus, “I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away,” that would make him a radio staple for decades to come. The song was covered by scores of musicians including Rod Stewart, Ray Charles and Michael Bolton, but perhaps the most famous contemporary version was by Detroit rocker Uncle Kracker in 2003. A collaboration with Gray, it reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart for a record-setting 28 weeks.