A Short Note on Peter Cooper and His Baseball Songs

Yesterday, the sad news came out of Nashville that award-winning journalist, singer-songwriter and country music historian Peter Cooper died on December 6. He had suffered a head injury about a week ago, and while there were signs that he could pull through, Peter passed away in his sleep at the age of 52.

Peter Cooper, left, with Eric Brace at the Station Inn in Nashville, on February 20, 2016. I happened to be in town for a conference and got to see one of my favorite duos in one of the city’s best venues.

If you don’t know the name, Cooper wrote for The Tennessean for years and quickly established himself as one of the greats in the music journalism world. He interviewed everybody from the veteran honky tonkers in Nashville to a teenaged Taylor Swift. He tackled obituaries — not an easy task, for sure — of some of the absolute legends of the music world, like Johnny Cash. Cooper’s words are inscribed on George Jones’ grave marker. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if a few of Cooper’s obits are in the Tennessean‘s files, waiting for their turn to be read someday when another legend dies. He also wrote or co-wrote several books in country music.

George Jones’ grave at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville include an epitaph written by Peter Cooper. “He sang of life’s hardships and struggles, in a way that somehow lightened our own.”

Cooper later worked for the Country Music Hall of Fame, and it was a perfect place for someone who loved preserving country music’s rich traditions. His words and, in some cases, his voice, will live on in that institution forever. He was a musician himself, and an excellent singer/songwriter. He released a string of solo albums, and he also partnered with Eric Brace on a series of duet albums. Cooper carried his love of country history into the recording studio, as he worked with many country legends who deserve greater recognition, like steel guitar virtuoso Lloyd Green or singer/songwriter Mac Wiseman. Cooper recorded an entire album of songs by Texas songwriter Eric Taylor, and he and Brace covered several songs by pioneering bluegrass group The Seldom Scene.

Here is Peter’s obituary at The Tennessean, and here is one from my friends at Country Universe.

So why are you reading this story on a baseball website? Because Peter Cooper was a baseball fan and wrote a couple of great songs about the sport. My favorite is “Opening Day,” the title track from one of his records. It so eloquently captures the hope that comes with start of another baseball season. Everything can be bad, and the brutality of a hot summer is coming fast, but on Opening Day, your favorite team is tied for first place, and there is the hope for a good season… or at least a not-terrible season.

Give them a listen below. RIP Peter Cooper. Your words are an inspiration.

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