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Peter Cooper, Legendary Country Music Journalist, Dies at 52

Cooper, also a well respected singer-songwriter, died Tuesday after a fall
Peter Cooper
(Credit: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Longtime Nashville country music journalist and singer-songwriter Peter Cooper died Tuesday at age 52, after a head injury following a fall.

Cooper spent years in the sometimes thankless, sometimes super-scrutinized role of country music critic of the Nashville Tennessean, Nashville’s last daily newspaper. It was a sweet situation, mostly, but a tough gig, too, like when charming country superman Toby Keith, offended that Cooper had referred to an unflattering mention from actor Ethan Hawke, trotted out his Toby Keith act on Cooper at a press conference. A more reputable source, Kris Kristofferson, said Cooper “looks at the world with an artist’s eye and a human’s heart and soul.” George Jones’ family chose words from Cooper’s Tennessean obituary for Jone’s tombstone.

After 15 years at the Nashville Tennessean, Cooper went on to the Country Music Hall of Fame, hosting the podcast series Voices In The Hall, writing, and producing exhibitions.

A remarkably terrific singer-songwriter in a town stuffed solid with singers, songwriters, and singer-songwriters, Peter Cooper had the brass stones to get up on stages all over Nashville to perform his own work in front of audiences who’d been reading his reviews of others for years — an act of either bravery or sheer bravado that few music critics have ever dared attempt, much less pulled off with grace. Among his collaborators were Todd Snider and the legendary steel guitar master Lloyd Green, two Nashvillians of genius rarely ever seen in the same sentence.

“In the daytime I write for the Nashville Tennessean newspaper, I’m a music journalist…” Cooper said onstage, introducing a song, “Thin Wild Mercury,” he’d co-written with Todd Snider, about the time Bob Dylan threw Phil Ochs out of his limousine, saying “You’re not a writer, you’re a journalist.” Cooper was a writer; Cooper was a journalist. Cooper made music and journalism.