Nashville Singer David Olney Dies Onstage as Fans Watch


While fans watched their favorite Nashville singer perform on Saturday, he suddenly stopped singing and put his head down on his chest.

What his fans didn’t know during that moment is that the singer had died and the “world lost a good one” that night.

a vintage filtered image of a guitar player

Nashville Singer David Olney Dies Onstage While Performing

It was during Olney’s second show of the day at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, when he became still and appeared to have paused for a moment.

Singer Amy Rigby was sitting beside him onstage when it happened, and she later wrote on Facebook, “He was very still, sitting upright with his guitar on, wearing the coolest hat and a beautiful rust suede jacket we laughed about because it was raining… outside the boathouse where we were playing.”

“I just want the picture to be as graceful and dignified as it was,” she said, “because it at first looked like he was just taking a moment.”

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Another performer, Scott Miller, posted a similar sentiment on Facebook. “David was playing a song when he paused, said ‘I’m sorry’ and put his chin to his chest. He never dropped his guitar or fell [off] his stool.”

“It was as easy and gentle as he was,” Miller continued. “We got him down and tried our best to revive him until the EMT’s arrived. The world lost a good one that night.”

David Olney September 2019
Scott Housley via

Earlier on the day that he died, Olney performed on WUWF-FM’s “Acoustic Interlude.” During a break on the show, he told the host that he still very much enjoyed performing live.

“You only get one chance to play for somebody for the first time,” said Olney. “and when they enjoy it, it’s the most satisfying feeling.”

Festival Staff Tried to Revive Olney

After the festival staff and audience members realized that something was wrong, they tried their best to revive 71-year-old Olney, to no avail. He appeared to have suffered a heart attack, which is what his official website now states on his biography.

According to the Nashville Scene, Olney is “widely regarded as a founding father of Americana.” After briefly studying English at the University of North Carolina, he then moved to Nashville in 1973, where he became embedded in the music world.

He started the rock band the X-Rays in the 1980s, continuing on to his solo career in 1986. David Olney was known for lyrics that had an unexpected focus, such as the iceberg that sunk the Titanic and the perspective of the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem.