"I see light as the physical manifestation of my creator. My hope
is that all of my work embodies this spiritual light."
Light. The Bible speaks about how we should not hide our light under a bushel, but rather shine as bright as we can. Country Music entertainer Holly Dunn, was one who believed in shining as bright as she could.
She was born Holly Suzette Dunn, on August 22, 1957, in San Antonio, Texas. Being the daughter of a Church of Christ minister and a mother, who was nationally known as a landscape painter, had its challenges. However, Holly embraced them as a blessing rather than a curse.
Her first introduction to music came from her parents as they played Gospel and country. Nonetheless, Holly was not oblivious to other musical genres. By the time she was in junior high, she was exploring the works of James Taylor and others.
Like any teenager, Holly had no idea what she wanted to do for a career. She entered and attended Abilene Christian University in the mid 1970s with a major in advertising and public relations. As a junior she got her first taste of songwriting when Gospel artist Christy Lane released “Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind.” After earning her B.A., Dunn moved to Nashville and joined her brother Chris Waters Dunn, a successful songwriter.
As like any person who arrives in Nashville with a pocket full of dreams, Holly had to try to earn spending money working various jobs. Some of the jobs she held included a book store sales clerk, travel agent and waitress; none of which prompted her interests. She often joked about being a travel agent saying “I was terrible at it. I think I lost several businessmen who are still out there.” As brothers do, Chris was looking out for his sister as he helped her get a job as a receptionist and full-time songwriter.
As a songwriter, Dunn wrote many hits including Louise Mandrell’s “I’m Not Through Loving You Yet” which she co-wrote with her brother. It was in 1984, when Holly was selected to be one of the first singers on the roster of a new record label called MTM Records. Her self entitled debut album was released in 1986. Her first two singles, “Playing For Keeps” and “My Heart Holds On,” failed to hit the Top 40.
Nonetheless, when Holly’s song “Daddy’s Hands” was released in 1986 it launched her career. The ever popular song went to Number 7 and is still popular today.
Dunn went on to record nine more albums, none of which really earned her the success that “Daddy’s Hands” did. She also lent her vocals to several duets including Michael Martin Murphey’s “A Face In The Crowd” and Kenny Rogers’ “Maybe.”
Other career highlights include being a co-host on the Nashville Network’s show Opry Backstage and co-hosting a radio show in Detroit, Michigan. The Dunn brother and sister writing duo went on to write songs for many artists in country music.
In 1991, Holly Dunn became the center of a controversy when she released her single “Maybe I Mean Yes” on her album Milestones: Greatest Hits. Various women’s groups complained that the lyrics validate the ideas that women don’t mean what they say, therefore they welcome rape. Dunn asked the record label to pull the song from circulation, indicating she did not want to profit from a possibly tainted hit.
In 2003, Holly Dunn announced her retirement from her musical career to devote a full-time career in her other passion – art. She released her first Gospel album, Full Circle, which became her final album later that year.
In mid summer, it was announced that Holly Dunn was battling ovarian cancer. Ms. Dunn lost the battle on November 14, 2016, she was only 59.
A light that illuminated so many dark corners of the country music world is now extinguished. Only the faded glow now resides within the hearts and memories of those who knew her.
© Strictly Country Magazine 2016.
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