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Mike Reid

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An NCAA All-American and All-Pro NFL defensive lineman, Mike Reid was as dominant a force in commercial country music of the 1980s and early '90s as he was on the gridiron in the 1960s and '70s. Reid penned 12 #1 country hits, including one as a solo artist (1990's "Walk on Faith"), and he provided hit vehicles for Ronnie Milsap, Conway Twitty, Don Williams, Wynonna, Tim McGraw and others. Yet his best-known composition may be the pop hit "I Can't Make You Love Me," a stirring ballad of resignation that Bonnie Raitt took into the pop Top 20 in 1991 and that has since been re-recorded dozens of times.

A serious-minded piano player even during his time playing football at Penn State University and with the Cincinnati Bengals, Reid devoted himself completely to music upon his 1975 retirement from sports. He moved to Nashville in 1980 and signed with Milsap's publishing firm in 1982. Milsap quickly began recording Reid's songs. "Inside" hit #1 on the country chart in early 1983, and "Stranger in My House" (which won Reid a Grammy for Best Country Song) went to #5 later that year. In 1985, Milsap's recording of Reid's "Lost in the Fifties Tonight" was a #1 country hit and a #8 adult contemporary record, and it was the most-played country song of the year. "Lost in the Fifties Tonight" was named ASCAP's Country Song of the Year in 1986.

By the mid-1980s, Reid songs were radio staples, and he notched hits with Milsap ("She Keeps the Home Fires Burning," "In Love," "How Do I Turn You On," Conway Twitty ("Fallin' for You for Years"), Don Williams ("I Wouldn't Be a Man") and more. A soulful vocalist, Reid was featured as Milsap's duet partner for 1988's "Old Folks," and Reid's recording-artist deal with Columbia Records resulted in the chart-topper "Walk on Faith."

Three other Top 20 solo hits followed for Reid, but his prime mark on popular music would be as a songwriter. More than two decades after its creation, "I Can't Make You Love Me" remains in Raitt's set list at every concert, and it has been recorded by George Michael, Kenny Rogers, Nancy Wilson, Kelly Clarkson, Adele and others. Continuing his renaissance ways, Reid went on to compose theatrical and operatic works, winning a Richard Rodgers Development Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters for 1997's The Ballad of Little Jo.

 

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