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Tom T. Hall, country music's 'Storyteller,' died by suicide, medical examiner says

Hall, the singer-songwriter who composed hits like “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” died in August at 85.
/ Source: Variety

Country Hall of Fame member Tom T. Hall’s death in August 2021 at 85 was by suicide, officials in his native Williamson County, Tennessee, have confirmed to reporters.

The cause of death was first reported Wednesday by the website Saving Country Music, which followed up on multiple comments posted on a year-end In Memoriam piece and confirmed the cause of death with Williamson County’s medical examiner. Rolling Stone also confirmed the coroner’s determination of suicide with county officials.

The report obtained by Saving Country Music showed that Hall “had sustained an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, to the head, on the morning of 8/20/2021. A 911 call was placed at 1115 hours on 8/20/201. Williamson County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and Williamson Medical Emergency Medical Services (WMC EMS) responded to the call. Paramedics confirmed death at approximately 1133 hours, due to obvious injuries.”

Port's Award Winner Tom T. Hall speaks onstage at the 5th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on Sept. 19, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn.Frederick Breedon IV / Getty Images file

Hall’s son, Dean Hall, also a musician, had announced his father’s passing without offering a cause of death. He subsequently deleted his social media accounts, the website reported, and did not respond to requests for comment.

After being one of the biggest country stars of the 1970s, and certainly one of the most revered for his artistry among country cognoscenti to the present day, Hall had long since retired from performing and recording. Performing only sporadically after the mid-1990s, he delivered his last performance in 2011, saying he preferred enjoying life on the farm with his wife, Dixie Hall, and thought newer generations should have their day.

He was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2019, Hall was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Other honors ranged from becoming a Grand Ole Opry member in 1971 to receiving a tribute from BMI with its Icon award at the org’s annual Nashville awards dinner in 2017.

Hall, nicknamed “The Storyteller” for his unadorned yet incisive lyrics, composed hundreds of songs. As a songwriter, he was known for hits for others, like “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” recorded by Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, as well as his own unusually literary No. 1 country singles of the 1970s like “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” and “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine.” He was also famous for the prosaically titled “I Like Beer,” a top 10 hit in 1975. Among his best known songs were “I Love,” which spent two weeks at the top of the country chart in 1974 and crossed over to the top 40. Among some modern fans, he might be best recognized for the oft-covered “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” which has become an Americana standard.

Patterson Hood of the band Drive-By Truckers called Hall “the greatest storyteller songwriter of all time” upon hearing of his death. “A writer’s writer. There’s at least a dozen categories of song that he wrote arguably the best ever example of.”

Dixie Hall, who achieved her own fame as a songwriter and collaborator, died in 2015. Dean Hall, his son from a previous marriage, is Hall’s only child.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.