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Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Memory of Reynolds Price: Copperline and New Hymn/James Taylor

Celebrated author Reynolds Price died today at the age of 77, as the result of a heart attack he suffered on Sunday. Price was the James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke University, where he taught for more than 50 years. He was known as a prolific writer who produced nonfiction, poetry, plays, essays, and fiction, including the novel Kate Vaiden, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1986. His most recent book was his third memoir, Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back, published in 2009.

Less well known is Price's work as a lyricist: He collaborated on two songs with his friend and fellow North Carolinian James Taylor.

"Price emerged as perhaps the first significant American novelist to compose a successful Top 40 popular song; with his friend, singer/songwriter James Taylor, Price collaborated on the 1991 hit popular song 'Copperline,' as well as on another song, entitled 'Hymn,'" writes James A. Schiff in his 1997 book Understanding Reynolds Price. Schiff elaborates:

The collaboration between Price and Taylor goes back to 1982, when Taylor wrote the score for a PBS television production of Price's play Private Contentment. . . . The first song Price and Taylor wrote together was "Hymn" in 1988. Taylor had wanted to write a song for the retirement of an old friend, Bishop Paul Moore, and Price suggested they write a hymn. He then wrote the lyrics to "Hymn," which can be found in The Use of Fire (1990), and Taylor added the music (it was recorded several years later under the name New Hymn on Taylor's Live). The other song, Copperline which they cowrote in 1991 while Price was staying with Taylor at his Connecticut home, can be found on Taylor's New Moon Shine CD.

Ardent Spirits (Kindle Edition)

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