Happy birthday to Ronnie Milsap! The singer was born on Jan. 16, 1943, in Robbinsville, N.C.
While Milsap has led an extraordinary life, his humble beginnings were anything but promising. Almost completely blind since birth due to a congenital disorder, Milsap was abandoned by his biological mother and raised by his grandparents until the age of five, when he went to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, N.C.
Milsap’s musical gifts were noticed when he was still a child, and he was learning to play the piano at an early age. The singer-songwriter attended Young Harris College but left before graduating, to pursue music full time.
Milsap made a name for himself in the musical town of Atlanta, Ga., with the release of his first single, “Total Disaster,” in 1963. He then signed with Scepter Records, based in New York, which paired him with singers such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and James Brown. He also recorded “Never Had It So Good,” written by Ashford & Simpson and released in 1965, which landed on the R&B charts.
Milsap’s self-titled debut album was released in 1971 on Warner Bros. Records; however, the album, as well as its single, “Sunday Rain,” failed to chart. After a meeting with Charley Pride, Milsap was persuaded to move to Nashville and focus on country music. He signed with RCA Records in 1973 and released Where My Heart Is, which landed in the Top 5 and spawned two Top 20 singles, “I Hate You” and “That Girl Who Waits on Tables.”
Milsap found success in pop music as well: 1977’s “It Was Almost Like a Song” landed at No. 16 on the pop charts and No. 1 on the country charts. Several more of his songs also found a place in both the country and pop worlds, including “Smokey Mountain Rain” and “Any Day Now,” the latter of which landed in the top spot on both charts.
Milsap’s legendary career, which includes more than 35 million albums sold and over 40 No. 1 hits, has earned him plenty of accolades. He’s won six Grammy Awards, five ACM Awards and eight CMA Awards, including the coveted Entertainer of the Year Award in 1977. Additionally, Milsap was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1976 and received the prestigious Career Achievement Award at the 2006 Country Radio Seminar. In 2014, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame; appropriately, the museum presented an exhibit, Ronnie Milsap: A Legend in My Time, the following year.
While Milsap claimed a few years ago that he was retiring from the road, the legend has continued touring — despite a 2016 scare in which he was rushed to the hospital before a show. In fact, his 2019 plans involve his extensive 76 for 76 Tour, in addition to the release of a new album of duets.
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