A 2012 inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Don Schlitz was one of Nashville's preeminent songwriters and the author of numerous chart-topping hits during the '70s, '80s, and beyond. He was a native of Durham, North Carolina, and after a short stint at Duke University in the early '70s, he moved to Nashville, working as a graveyard-shift computer operator for five years while honing his songwriting skills. Schlitz received his first break in 1978, when Kenny Rogers had a monster hit with his "The Gambler." The number one smash not only became one of Rogers' signature songs, but also earned Schlitz his first of three CMA Song of the Year Awards. Two years after its release, Schlitz released an album of his own on Capitol Records, Dreamers Matinee, and continued to release more solo material -- including I Knew Jack Durham, Allergic to Crazy, Greatest Hits, and the holiday-themed Star on the Tree -- during the following decades.
During the '80s and '90s, many other prominent artists recorded his songs, including Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, the Judds, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Garth Brooks, and Keith Whitley. Schlitz frequently co-wrote songs with Paul Overstreet; one of their most distinguished collaborations was the Grammy-winning "Forever and Ever Amen," which became an enormous hit for Travis. Another was "When You Say Nothing at All," which became a chart-topper for Whitley in 1988, a number three hit for Alison Krauss in 1995, and a number one single for Ronan Keating in 1999. Schlitz also teamed up with Mary Chapin Carpenter, co-writing four singles for her Come on Come On album. Three of those singles went to number one. The following decade found Schlitz writing the music and lyrics to the Broadway musical The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, all the while continuing to write songs and perform in Nashville.