BY HOLLY PERRY
Mark Gray, hit country songwriter and recording artist, passed away on Friday, Dec. 2 in Lebanon, Tenn. at the age of 64.
Over the course of his career, Gray had eight Top 40 country hits, became a member of the band Exile and released three solo albums on Columbia Records. Gray was responsible for Alabama’s No. 1 hits “Take Me Down” and “The Closer You Get,” both originally recorded as Exile songs. He also recorded a duet with the legendary Tammy Wynette, “Sometimes We Touch,” that peaked at No. 6 on the charts.
Gray was born in Vicksburg, Miss. on Oct. 24, 1952, as the youngest of seven children. After his mother’s death, the 2-year-old Gray moved to Lookout Mountain, Ga., to live with his aunt and uncle. It was his time in Georgia that helped him form a love for music, propelling him to form a gospel group called the Revelations in 1972. By then, he was back in Mississippi and working on his father’s farm. Gray would continue to sing gospel music throughout the 70s until he got an invite to join a popular band called Exile.
In 1979, Gray joined Exile and started to hone his songwriting skills. By the time he left the group in 1982, Gray was ready to take the music world by storm on his own. He was quickly signed by Columbia Records as a solo artist. His first single “If It Ain’t Real (It Ain’t You)” would break the Top 30 less than a year later. His followup single, “Wounded Hearts,” peaked at #18 on the charts not long after. The next couple of years were two of the biggest in Gray’s career. He boasted six Top Ten hits, including “Diamond in the Dust,” and “Please Be Love.”
Gray’s funeral services will take place at 11 a.m. at Sellars Funeral Home in Lebanon, Tenn. on Monday, Dec. 5.