Hemsidan senast uppdaterad: 2024-07-08

Skådespelaren Jimmy Dean (1928-2010)

Av: Anders Frejdh
Jimmy Dean Diamonds Are Forever
Jimmy Ray Dean, singer and actor, most famous for his role as Willard Whyte in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), passed away.

During the winter of 1961-62, British record-buyers indulged themselves in one of their periodic flirtations with American country music. But as Leroy van Dyke's Walk On By, Don Gibson's Sea of Heartbreak and Jim Reeves's You're the Only Good Thing – conventional country songs of deception, desertion and devotion – cantered into the charts, they were overtaken at a gallop by Jimmy Dean's Big Bad John.

Dean, who has died aged 81, wrote the piece as a dramatic monologue, the heroic story of a coal miner who "stood six foot six and weighed two forty-five" and held up a collapsing roof until his fellows had escaped, but could not save himself. Hammer-rings punctuate the recording, which ends with the epitaph: "At the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man – Big Bad John."

The disc spent nine weeks in the UK charts, six of them in the top 10, and was only just held off the top spot by Elvis Presley's His Latest Flame. In the US, however, it reached No 1 on both country and pop charts, receiving a Grammy award as best country and western recording, and instigating a series of parodies such as Phil McLean's Small Sad Sam (of the same year). It would be Dean's biggest hit, though he followed it with the recitation Dear Ivan, addressed to another "plain, ordinary human being" in the USSR, and the song PT-109, based on John F Kennedy's experiences during the second world war. But Dean's career did not depend on recordings. He was one of country music's earliest television stars.

He was raised in what he called dirt-poor surroundings in the small west Texas town of Seth Ward, near Plainview. (Curiously, an earlier country singer named Jimmie Dean came from nearby Lubbock.) After leaving the armed forces in 1948, Dean began to make his name as a country singer around Washington DC, then a nexus of country music activity, thanks in part to the promoter Connie B Gay. In 1953 he had a regional hit with Bummin' Around, for the independent label 4 Star.

He secured a spot on radio at WARL in Arlington, Virginia, then, from 1960, on television, hosted the show Town & Country Jamboree, which was quite widely syndicated. An attempt at a network show was frustrated by lack of sponsors, but a few years later ABC's The Jimmy Dean Show was playing in millions of homes, and country music infiltrated middle America, thanks to what has been described as the "cornflake charm" of its youthful host.

He took his pleasant looks into TV drama, too, playing Fess Parker's sidekick in the popular series Daniel Boone, and appearing in some episodes of Fantasy Island. In 1971 he took the part of the millionaire recluse Willard Whyte in the Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. By then, he had more or less retired from the music business. He had a final No 1 record in 1965, The First Thing Ev'ry Morning (And The Last Thing Ev'ry Night), then in 1968 he founded the Jimmy Dean Meat Company. Many Americans will remember him less as a rural recitalist than as the Sausage King of TV ads.

In the 1970s he made occasional returns to record-making, cutting Slowly, a duet with Dottie West, in 1971, and in 1976 the recitation IOU, a tribute to his mother, sporadically reissued around Mother's Day. He was frequently called upon to deputise for talkshow hosts such as Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin, and he continued to promote his sausages on TV, even after selling the company, but by 2004 the new owners judged him too old to be the public face of the product. That year he published his autobiography, Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham.

He is survived by his wife, Donna, and by three children from an earlier marriage.

Obituary written by Tony Russell for The Guradian on June 16, 2010:




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Grundare & Ansvarig utgivare: Anders Frejdh