Robert Knight — the original singer of “Everlasting Love,” one of the most enduring hits to come out of Nashville — died after suffering from a short illness, the Tennessean reported Monday. He was 72.
Born on April 24, 1945, Knight first emerged onto the music scene as a member of the Paramounts, a quintet comprised of high school buddies. They signed with Dot Records in 1960 and debuted in 1961 with their small hit “Free Me.”
Following a series of lackluster releases, the group broke up and severed their contract with their label, which left them barred from recording for the following four and a half years. Knight used that time to attend Tennessee State University.
While at school, Knight sang with a vocal trio, the Fairlanes, which eventually led him to his solo recording deal when Mac Gayden of Rising Sons Records caught one of their performances. “Everlasting Love,” written by his label heads Buzz Carson and Gayden, would be his first release under his new deal. The song hit No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.
It has since been covered by the likes of U2, Carl Carlton, Gloria Estefan, and Love Affair — who reached No.1 in the U.K. with their take the year after Knight’s original release.
Knight would fail to achieve the success of “Love” as his career continued, though “Blessed are the Lonely,” “Isn’t it Lonely Together” and “Love on a Mountain Top,” also written by Carson and Gayden, each charted in the 1970s. Later, Knight pursued a non-musical career, working as a lab technician, a chemistry teacher, and even a grounds crew member, all at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.