Charlie Robison, the Texas singer-songwriter whose rootsy anthems made the country charts until he was forced to retire after complications from a medical procedure left him unable to sing, died Sunday. He was 59.
Robison died at a hospital in San Antonio after suffering cardiac arrest and other complications, according to a family representative.
Robison launched his music career in the late 1980s, playing in local Austin bands like Two Hoots and a Holler before forming his own Millionaire Playboys. In 1996, he released his solo debut, ‘Bandera’, named for the Texas Hill Country town where his family has had a ranch for generations.
When he was approached by Sony in 1998, Robison signed with its Lucky Dog imprint, which was devoted to rawer country. His 2001 album ‘Step Right Up’ produced his only Top 40 country song, ‘I Want You Bad’.
In 2018, Robison announced that he had permanently lost the ability to sing following a surgical procedure on his throat. “Therefore, with a very heavy heart I am officially retiring from the stage and studio,” he wrote on Facebook.
Robison served as a judge for one year on USA Network’s ‘Nashville Star’, a reality TV show in which contestants lived together while competing for a country music recording contract.
He is survived by his wife, Kristen Robison, and four children and stepchildren. Three of his children were with his first wife, Emily Strayer, a founding member of the superstar country band The Chicks. They divorced in 2008.
Robison’s break-up with Strayer inspired songs on the 2009 album ‘Beautiful Day’. He recorded it while living across from the Greyhound bus station in San Antonio, in a loft apartment with mismatched furniture, “the quintessential bachelor pad,” he recalled.
“People come up to me and say they’re going through something right now, and it’s like this is completely written about them,” Robison told the Associated Press in 2009. “I wasn’t meaning to do that, but it’s been a residual effect of the record.”
Robison’s final album, the rock-tinged ‘High Life’ from 2013, included a cover version of Bob Dylan’s ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’.
Memorial services are pending.