Juli Thanki, email@example.com
Singer Billy Joe Royal, best known for his pop hit “Down in the Boondocks” and a string of country singles in the 1980s, died unexpectedly in his home in North Carolina on Tuesday morning, according to his publicist, Brent Taylor. He was 73 years old.
Mr. Royal was born April 3, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia, and began singing at an early age. As a young man he performed on the radio program "Georgia Jubilee," which is where he met artists like Jerry Reed and Joe South. It was South who penned Mr. Royal's 1965 breakout single, "Down in the Boondocks," which peaked at No. 9. Mr. Royal would also find success with his follow-up single: another South-penned song, called "I Knew You When."
During the mid-1980s, Mr. Royal's career was revitalized when he signed with Atlantic Records and began releasing country songs. In late 1985, Mr. Royal notched his first Top 10 country single with "Burned Like a Rocket," though the song was reportedly pulled from the radio after the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy of January 1986. He followed "Rocket" with several country hits including "I'll Pin a Note on Your Pillow," "Tell It Like It Is," and "Till I Can't Take It Anymore." He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
Mr. Royal's soulful voice was still in fine form, and he continued to tour in recent years. His final live performance was Sept. 24 at the Gwinnett County Fair in Georgia, the state in which he was raised and where he discovered his love of music. Taylor said that Mr. Royal had planned to spend some time off the road in the coming weeks in order to spend time with his daughter, a student at NC State University.
He is survived by his ex-wife, Michelle Royal, with whom he was still close, daughter Savannah Royal, and two stepsons, Trey and Joey Riverbank. Funeral arrangements will be announced this week.