Dobie Gray Dies From Cancer Surgery Complications

    Mr. Gray’s early life is not well documented. Different sources give the year of his birth as 1940, 1942 or 1943, though all agree on the date of Sept. 26. His given name has been reported as Leonard Victor Ainsworth and Lawrence Darrow Brown. By all accounts he was born into a sharecropper family outside Houston, in Brookshire or Simonton, Tex.

    Mr. Reneau said that as far as he knew Mr. Gray, who never married, was 71, and that his survivors included a sister and a brother. No immediate family member could be reached. In interviews, Mr. Gray credited his Baptist minister grandfather with sparking his interest in singing.

    Mr. Gray left Texas in the early 1960s for Los Angeles, where he worked with Sonny Bono, then an executive with Specialty Records. He made several records under the names Leonard Ainsworth, Larry Curtis and Larry Dennis. He adopted the name Dobie Gray sometime before he recorded his first hit, “Look at Me,” in 1963.

    After his career was revived by “Drift Away,” Mr. Gray used his fame to help support political causes. He campaigned for Jimmy Carter in his 1976 presidential race, and although he toured in Europe and Australia, he agreed to perform in South Africa only after winning a government dispensation allowing him to play before integrated audiences, according to his Web site.

    Mr. Gray left Los Angeles for Nashville in 1978 and began writing and performing country music there. His singing career never took off in Nashville, but he became a prolific writer of songs for other artists, including John Conlee (“Got My Heart Set on You”), Ray Charles (“Over and Over, Again”), Julio Iglesias (“If I Ever Needed You”) and George Jones (“Come Home to Me”).

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