Peter Cooper, who established a twin career as one of country music’s most important journalists and a well-respected, Grammy-nominated musician in his own right, has died. Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper reports that Cooper died in Nashville on Tuesday (Dec. 6) after suffering a head injury in a fall.
Cooper was born in South Carolina, and he moved to Nashville in 2000, landing a high-profile gig as a music journalist with the Tennessean, a job that launched him into recognition as one of the most influential voices in country music journalism. Cooper was as much a country music historian as he was a writer, and he brought a formidable knowledge of the genre to his writing that set him apart, earning fans that included Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams Jr., among many others. Cooper was also well-known in the country music community in Nashville as a mentor figure for a large number of new and aspiring writers and musicians.
Cooper became close friends with iconoclastic singer-songwriter Todd Snider, who enlisted him to play bass during his appearances on The Tonight Show and the Late Show With David Letterman in 2006. Snider encouraged his friend to pursue his own music, resulting in three acclaimed solo albums and three more albums in collaboration with Eric Brace. Cooper was nominated for a Grammy for Best Children’s Album in 2012 for I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow, another collaboration with Brace.
Cooper left the Tennessean in 2014 to join the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where he served as senior writer, producer and director until his death.
The Hall of Fame issued a statement following Cooper’s death, lauding not only his talent, but also his heart:
With heavy hearts, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is saddened to learn of the death of our beloved colleague and friend, Peter Cooper. An award-winning music journalist, author, Grammy-nominated producer, recording musician, songwriter, baseball fanatic and former Senior Lecturer in country music at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, Cooper joined the museum in November 2014 as museum editor. He grew to assume the role of museum senior director, producer and writer, driving several important creative initiatives and bringing a poetic grace to them all. He developed and implemented mission-oriented programs, exhibitions, podcasts and, as a writer, elegantly described the rich character of the country music story. His talents were immense, but his heart was even bigger, and he touched the lives of those he encountered in immeasurable ways. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.
In lieu of flowers, Cooper’s family is asking for donations to either the Baker Cooper Fund, which will help to further his son’s education, or the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Donations to the Baker Cooper Fund can go to Baker Cooper c/o Wells Fargo Bank, 1712 West End Avenue, Nashville, Tenn., 37203.
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May they rest in peace …