Holly Dunn

The year 2016 was a sad year for celebrity deaths. If you Google “2016 celebrity deaths” the numbers are staggering. One of those deaths truly broke my heart though. She was a singer from the 80s and 90s and one of my all-time favorite country singers. Holly Dunn, a country singer who wrote the hit “Daddy’s Hands” as a Father’s Day gift for her preacher father, died on Monday, November 14, 2016 in Albuquerque. She was 59. The cause was ovarian cancer, said her nephew, Daniel Dunn, the mayor of Temple, Tex.

Ms. Dunn’s wistful “Daddy’s Hands” won two Grammy nominations (best female country vocal performance and best country song) in 1987, and her “Are You Ever Gonna Love Me” and “You Really Had Me Going” (both written with her brother Chris Waters Dunn and Tom Shapiro) reached No. 1 on the country charts, in 1989 and 1990.

Those three also wrote “I’m Not Through Loving You Yet,” a Top 10 country hit for Louise Mandrell in 1984. Ms. Dunn recorded the duet “Maybe” with Kenny Rogers and sang on records with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. She was named the Academy of Country Music’s top female vocalist in 1986 and the most promising newcomer by the Country Music Association a year later.

She also described herself as a pioneer in a mostly male-dominated recording industry because she wrote (often with her brother), produced and performed her own material. “I think this gives me a real legitimacy, a genuineness,” she told The Associated Press in 1990. “I’m not just up there standing where they tell me to stand, singing what they tell me to sing.”

Holly Suzette Dunn was born on Aug. 22, 1957, in San Antonio, the daughter of Frank Dunn, a Church of Christ minister, and the former Yvonne Campbell, a Texas Hill Country landscape artist. Reading her obituary in the New York Times, I was amazed to find out that “She is survived by her wife, Melissa Taylor, and her three brothers, Chris, Jerry and Rodney.” I had never known she was a lesbian. She was a very private person and had retired from music in when she released her final album, Full Circle, which was her first gospel album, in 2003. Her paintings deal primarily with subjects from the Southwestern United States, and are available through the Peña+Dunn Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Though she had not produced any more songs since 2003, she was always a favorite of mine. I never got to see her in concert and I had always hoped to visit her studio in Santa Fe to one day meet this hero of mine. Sadly, I will never have that change. Maybe someday, I will have a chance to own a piece of her art.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “Holly Dunn

  • Hollyfan

    Wow, I have a piece of her art and had the chance to speak with her and her girlfriend about why she quit music. Art was not the only reason. I am shocked to not be able to find one single thing about her being gay. Maybe because of her father. Hope this helps you have a little more insight on your hero. She was one of my favorites also.

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