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"Midnight Train to Georgia" songwriter Jim Weatherly dead at 77

Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Jim Weatherly -- the songwriter best known for writing Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia" -- has died, a family friend told reporters.

Weatherly was 77 and died Wednesday of natural causes at his home in Brentwood, Tenn., near Nashville.

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Weatherly was born in Mississippi and played on the University of Mississippi's football team in 1962's undefeated season, when the team clinched a Southeastern Conference Championship and a national championship.

The following year, as starting quarterback, he led the Rebels to another SEC championship.

After graduating from college, Weatherly decided to pursue a career in music.

One day in 1970 he called his friend, the actor Lee Majors, and Majors' girlfriend Farrah Fawcett -- the future star of "Charlie's Angels" -- answered.

During their brief chat she told him during the chat that she was about to take "the midnight plane to Houston."

"A little bell went off," Weatherly said in an interview later. "Sounded like a song title to me."

He wrote "Midnight Plane to Houston" as a country song, but soul singer Cissy Houston recorded the first version -- with a slight change to the lyrics.

"My people are originally from Georgia and they didn't take planes to Houston or anywhere else," Houston told the Wall Street Journal.

Weatherly agreed to the change, and in 1973 Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded their own version, which became a number-one hit, won a Grammy and became Knight's signature song.

Knight and the Pips also recorded Weatherly's "Neither One of Us" and "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me."

"I'm missing Jim Weatherly already. He was about life and love," Knight tweeted Thursday.

Weatherly, who who also wrote songs for Ray Price, Glen Campbell and Kenny Rogers belonged to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and was ASCAP's Country Songwriter of the Year in 1974, and was also in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame.

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Lisa Banes reacts on set of "The Niceties" with the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, on August 30, 2018. The actress, known for her roles in "Gone Girl" and numerous Broadway roles, died from a hit-and-run accident on June 14 at the age of 65. Photo by T. Charles Erickson/Flickr

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