Folk singer-songwriter David Olney was in the middle of his third song at a festival in Florida Saturday night when "he stopped, apologized, and shut his eyes," musician Amy Rigby says. The 71-year-old died from an apparent heart attack at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, People reports. Rigby, who was on stage with Olney at the time, describes him as a "beautiful man, a legend, a songwriting poet." Olney, a fixture on the Nashville scene for nearly 50 years, produced more than 20 solo albums and wrote songs covered by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Del McCoury, and former roommate Steve Earle, among others.
Fellow singer-songwriter Scott Miller was also on stage. "David was playing a song when he paused, said 'I'm sorry,' and put his chin to his chest," Miller said in a Facebook post. "He never dropped his guitar or fell off his stool. It was as easy and gentle as he was. We got him down and tried our best to revive him until the EMT’s arrived," Miller said. "The world lost a good one last night. But we still have his work. And it still inspires. And always will." Variety reports that the late Townes Van Zandt once described Olney as one of the best songwriters he'd ever heard, saying his favorite music writers were "Mozart, Lightnin Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney." Olney is "survived by wife, Regine, daughter, Lillian, and son, Redding, and by a devastated music community," his website says. (Read more folk music stories.)