The late renowned songwriter and alumnus Jim Weatherly was honored with the university’s first Medal for the Arts in April.
In partnership with the College and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Department of Music recognized Weatherly’s legacy of songwriting and contributions to many genres of music. The ceremony in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts featured country music star Brett Young and the Mississippians Jazz Ensemble.
“The Medal for the Arts award recognizes skilled artistry or a supporter of the arts who positively affects the Lafayette-Oxford-University community,” said Nancy Maria Balach, chair and professor of music and CEO-artistic director of Living Music Resource, who developed the award with Brady Bramlett, associate director of development and executive managing director of LMR.
Balach and a group of students visited and interviewed Weatherly in 2019 for an episode of LMR Live on location at Larry Rogers’ studio in Nashville.
Weatherly, who died in 2021, was a star quarterback, leading Coach John Vaught’s squads to SEC championships in 1962 and 1963 and a share of the 1962 national title. He was part of UM’s only perfect season, 10-0 in ’62, which concluded with a 17-13 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
A Pontotoc native, Weatherly had bands during high school and while studying education at UM until he moved to Los Angeles with his rock band, The Gordian Knot, in 1966.
He wrote some of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ greatest hits, including “Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” “Midnight Train to Georgia” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was named one of the top 500 songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Weatherly was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. He was Country Songwriter of the Year in 1974.
Weatherly had seven albums of his own as a recording artist. “The Need to Be” reached No. 11 on the pop charts and No. 6 on the A/C charts during the ’70s. He had a Top 10 country record with “I’ll Still Love You.”
After moving back to the South, Weatherly continued to enjoy success. His self-published song “Love Never Broke Anyone’s Heart,” which he cowrote with Vince Gill, is on Gill’s “I Still Believe in You” album that has sold more than 5 million copies. They also teamed up to write “If I Didn’t Have You in My World” for the double-platinum “Pocket Full of Gold” album.
Weatherly’s “A Lady Like You” was No. 1 on the country charts for Glen Campbell. “Where Shadows Never Fall,” also recorded by Campbell, won Weatherly his first Dove Award. New Asylum country artist Bryan White had his first No. 1 country hit with Weatherly’s “Someone Else’s Star.” He also cowrote “You Know How I Feel” with White for his debut album.
Weatherly had cuts recorded by Marie Osmond, Charley Pride, Dean Martin, Kenny Rogers, Reba McIntire, Kenny Chesney, Joan Osborne, Hall & Oates, Ed Bruce, The Temptations, The Oak Ridge Boys, Tanya Tucker, Widespread Panic, and Jennifer Hudson.