Peter Cooper: A leading Nashville voice gone too soon

Peter Cooper, performing at the Station Inn in 2015.
Peter Cooper, performing at the Station Inn in 2015.

In this industry, when you are starting out and finding where you fit into it, it helps having mentors, heroes and those you look up to.

For me, there are quite a few who played those kinds of roles which helped keep me in the game, and former Tennessean columnist and reporter Peter Cooper was one of them. Cooper sadly passed away this week at age 52 due to injuries he received from a fall.

More:Peter Cooper, acclaimed country music journalist and musician, dies at 52

After graduating college in 2013, I was fortunate to land a summer internship writing for The Tennessean's lifestyles department. It was a great team of writers and editors to be a part of, one of them being Cooper. Though we never spent much time getting to know each other during that time, I could tell he was the type of journalist I'd want to aspire to be.

I mean, how cool is it that someone's job is writing about music and having intimate conversations with the big stars, all while getting to do it in the big city?

Author Peter Cooper was among 20 authors to attend Sunday's Hub City Writers Project "Delicious Reads" event in Spartanburg. He shared stories about Nashville, the home of country music.

BOB MONTGOMERY/SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL
Author Peter Cooper was among 20 authors to attend Sunday's Hub City Writers Project "Delicious Reads" event in Spartanburg. He shared stories about Nashville, the home of country music. BOB MONTGOMERY/SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL

He was also great for providing tips to a young budding journalist, such as keeping your cool while interviewing a celebrity, or how to properly cover a massive music festival like CMA Fest.

Cooper had a deep love for Nashville's music history, as well as the art of crafting a well-made story, one that maintains the integrity of its subject matter, while also creating an interesting narrative that always seemed to contain just the right words.

Some of his best stories included his coverage of artists like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams Jr., as well as being the main writer on The Tennessean-published 2014 book, "George Jones: King of Broken Hearts," as well as Cooper's 2017 book "Johnny Cash & Charley's Pride."

When Cooper was later hired as senior director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014, I thought, "Wow, what better person for the job than someone who's spent his career being immersed in telling Nashville's music history, and doing it in a way that was readable, interesting and with a splash of humor from time to time?"

In addition to his work as a writer, Cooper was also a songwriter and performer. For us guitar fiddlers, it's always a great conversation starter. In 2015, he even came to Columbia to perform at the former Muletown MusicFest, which was really great to witness as our own local music scene began to grow.

Upon reading Friday's feature from Tennessean reporter Dave Paulson, another former and much-appreciated colleague, following news of Cooper's death, it turned out he was quite active in so many music-related projects, including performing with John Prine and Bill Murray at RCA studio A. He also performed on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Tonight Show" in 2006, playing bass for Todd Snider.

After reading numerous statements from musicians and Nashville stars who knew him, one thing that was most inspiring was just how much respect they had for the work Cooper did during his life, his writing style and who he was as a person. It's a testament to his legacy as a reporter, historian and someone who had a genuine love and passion for telling good stories about the thing he loved most.

Cooper will no doubt be missed by many, which again is only proof to the mark he left on Nashville, its music and the following he amassed through his writing, not just by Tennessean subscribers, but musicians, producers and the major players in the industry.

For me, he was just a great guy to look up to, one who made me want to try harder and tell stories in the best way possible. It's just a shame he's gone, because he likely had many more stories to tell, songs to write and ways to inspire others.

R.I.P. Coop. Nashville and Tennessee won't be the same without you.

Jay Powell
Jay Powell

Jay Powell is a reporter for The Daily Herald. Contact him at jpowell@c-dh.net or follow him on Twitter @JayPowellCDH.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Peter Cooper: A leading Nashville voice gone too soon