PASSING NOTES Waylon Jennings, the country superstar best known for leading the music’s ”outlaw” fringe, died yesterday at 64 at his home outside Phoenix. He had long battled heart disease and diabetes, and he died ”peacefully in his sleep,” a spokeswoman said.
He enjoyed a nearly 50-year career that included 16 No. 1 country singles and such hits as ”Luckenbach, Texas,” ”Good Hearted Woman,” ”Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” ”I’ve Always Been Crazy,” and ”Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” His celebrity crossed over into movies (films as diverse as ”Maverick” and the ”Sesame Street” movie ”Follow That Bird”) and television, where he wrote the million-selling theme song to ”The Dukes of Hazzard” and served as the show’s narrator.
Jennings was already a well-established country star in the mid-’70s when his disillusion with the slicker sounds coming out of producer-nominated Nashville led him to start what became known as the ”outlaw” movement, a rawer, rootsier sound launched with the 1976 album ”Wanted: The Outlaws,” which also featured his wife, singer Jessi Colter, Willie Nelson, and Tompall Glaser. It was the first country album ever to go platinum. Three years later, his ”Greatest Hits” album would sell 4 million copies. His duets with Nelson yielded several albums and such hits as ”Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” In the ’80s, Jennings formed an outlaw supergroup, The Highwaymen, with Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson.
Though it was far from inaccurate, Jennings downplayed the ”outlaw” tag, calling it a ”good marketing tool. In a way, I am that way. You start messing with my music, I get mean. As long was you are honest and up front with me, I will be the same with you. But I still do things my way.” He stood proudly outside the Nashville mainstream, boycotting the Grand Ole Opry for 10 years until they let him bring a full drum kit, and staying home last year when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. Still, the industry rewarded him with two Grammy awards and four Country Music Association awards.
Jennings had been slowed down in recent months by diabetes-related circulation problems that made walking difficult and ultimately led to the amputation of his left foot in December, but he had still planned to tour again this spring. He had famously cheated death before, notably, during a 1959 tour, when he was a backing bassist who gave up his seat to J.P. Richardson (”The Big Bopper”) on the plane that crashed hours later and killed Richardson, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens. Jennings also survived a stint rooming with Cash, a $1,500-a-day cocaine habit (he quit cold-turkey in the mid-’80s), and four marriages. His final union, to Colter, lasted 32 years, until his death, and produced one son, Shooter.
SOUND BITES After three weeks of nearly identical top 10 Billboard charts, Jennifer Lopez has come along to shake things up. Coming a week after the top 10 debut of Mary J. Blige’s revamped version of her ”No More Drama” album (which fell to No. 20 this week), Lopez’s ”J to tha L-O! The Remixes” opened at No. 1, the first album of remixes ever to do so. The disc, which features old hits given new sonic spins by such producers as Fat Joe, Rodney Jerkins, and ex-boyfriend Sean ”P. Diddy” Combs (plus one new song, ”Alive,” which she recorded for her upcoming film, ”Enough”), sold 156,050 copies, according to SoundScan.
Two other hits albums debuted in the top 10: Barry Manilow’s ”Ultimate Manilow” opened at No. 3 (113,375 sold), and Sade’s concert disc ”Lovers Live” entered at No. 10. Displaced by J. Lo after three weeks was Alan Jackson’s ”Drive,” which slipped to No. 2 and sold 149,775 units. Dropping two spots each were Creed’s ”Weathered” (No. 4, 109,725 copies) and Linkin Park’s ”Hybrid Theory” (No. 5, 95,050 sold). Rounding out the top 10 were Ludacris’ ”Word of Mouf” (No. 6), Nickelback’s ”Silver Side Up” (No. 7), Ja Rule’s ”Pain Is Love” (No. 8), and Pink’s ”M!ssundaztood” (No. 9).