Known as The Voice of country music, Gosdin died from a stroke on April 28, 2009. His was a pained and tortured voice singing some of the saddest songs in the world, and when he died, we truly lost one of the voices of the ages.
Forget the current crop of Nashville pop crooners. Gosdin was a man who had the wrinkles of Merle Haggard and, like George Jones, knew what it meant to weep. With his album, Chiseled In Stone, Gosdin created a country music masterpiece. It's virtually impossible to get through the thing without having an emotional breakdown.
On the album cover, the photo is worthy of Walker Evans. Gosdin squints at you, his boot on the bumper of the car, a leaf trapped in its grill, as two old men look out from the glass of a barber shop, its front window marked by fading square-dance posters.
On the recordings themselves, Gosdin squints even harder, clobbering you with the impact of his voice and the tight control of his band. The steel guitars of Sonny Garrish and Jim Vest are particularly astounding at recreating the sound of raw nerves.
The beauty of the record owes a great deal to the songwriting abilities of Gosdin and Hank Cochran, especially on "Set 'Em Up, Joe" and "I Guess I Had Your Leavin' Coming."
But the title song is the highlight. It's the story of a young man who, after fighting with his girlfriend, ducks into a bar, only to be told by an old codger that he should be grateful for what he's got--at least his woman isn't dead, and he doesn't have to wander through life alone.
"Chiseled in Stone" refers to the tombstone of the old man's wife, but it now refers to Vern Gosdin's own life.
More to the point: "Chiseled in Stone" points to the tombstone's shadow cast in the background of all our lives.
Listed below are ust some of the awards Gosdin has received -- for Chiseled in Stone alone (there were, ultimately, many more awards for many other things):
1989 ASCAP Award - "Set 'Em Up Joe"
1989 ASCAP Award - "Chiseled In Stone"
1989 ASCAP Award - "Do You Believe Me Now?"
1989 CMA Song of the Year - "Chiseled In Stone" (Max D. Barnes & Vern Gosdin)
1988 Nashville Songwriters Association Song of the Year - "Chiseled In Stone"
1988 CMA #1 Song - "Set 'Em Up Joe"
1988 CMA Album of the Year - "Chiseled In Stone" (Nomination)
1988 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year (Nomination)