One of the members of the First Family of Texas Music, and a landmark musician and songwriter for nearly 30 years in Texas and beyond has died at the age of 59. According to a family representative, Charlie Robison passed away due to cardiac arrest at a San Antonio hospital on Sunday, September 10th.
Initially retiring in 2018 citing concerns for his singing voice after surgery, over the last year Robison was making a comeback, performing while sitting down, but revitalizing his iconic songs in the live setting. A couple of weeks ago, he abruptly cancelled all upcoming shows with no explanation. Charlie Robison’s death leaves the Texas music scene in shock.
Charlie Robison was part of one of the most important families in Texas music. Along with his well-known brother Bruce Robison, his sister Robyn Ludwick is also a songwriter and performer. Charlie was also married to Emily Erwin of The Dixie Chicks for a decade, and the couple had three children together before divorcing in 2008.
Born in Houston, TX on September 4th, 1964, an injury ended a potential football career for Robison in the late 80’s. He moved to Austin, TX where he played in numerous bands like Chaparral and Millionaire Playboys, eventually becoming a songwriter and performer in the burgeoning Texas music scene.
Charlie Robison released his first record independently in 1996 and subsequently signed with Sony Records, releasing four major label albums before switching to Dualtone in 2003. Though he never had any major Top 25 singles, Robison helped pave the way for future Texas-based performers and songwriters to find success and reception in Nashville while still holding on to their sound and fan base back home.
But mostly what fans will remember is Charlie Robison’s laid-back style and music that seemed custom made for sweltery nights at a Texas dancehall. “New Year’s Day” has become a staple of many households and gatherings on January 1st in Texas and beyond. His version of “El Cerrito Place” written by Keith Gattis remains the definitive take for many, even when Kenny Chesney cut his own version years later.
“My Hometown” is an unofficial anthem of Texas. His 1998 album Life of the Party is considered a landmark record of Texas music. Charlie’s last record, 2013’s High Life is an underrated gem, as are many of his songs and records that never got their fair due outside of his loyal Texas fan base.
This is the end of an era in Texas music—one that picked up where Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen and others left off, one that contemporaries like Charlie’s brother Bruce and Jack Ingram that had a supergroup of sorts under the “Unleashed” banner carried forward, and set the table for the new generation with artists like Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers to pick up and continue singing true-to-life songs to the fans of today.
The fact that Charlie’s road ends at only 59 and right as he was making a comeback feels especially painful. But the memories and the music remain, and will resonate in Texas and beyond for generations to come.