August 6, 2009 – Otha Young was born Robert Otha Young on May 10, 1943 in Tulare, California.
Friend, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and the very longtime musical partner of Grammy-Award winning country-pop artist Juice Newton for 37 years, he was known as a great songwriter.
He didn’t start playing guitar until after he graduated from San Jose State College on a football scholarship, earning a degree in behavioral sciences. He also wrestled for one season. “He had natural ability, he was soulful,” said producer Michael Huey, who played drums for Newton and Young during the 1980s. “He was really incredibly well rounded.”
Juice Newton, who was born into a military family, found herself in Northern California in the mid-seventies where she first teamed up with fellow singer/songwriter/guitarist as the folk rock duo Sweet Jubal and later called themselves Dixie Peach. Their brand of progressive country rock developed as they went on to form the band Juice Newton and Silver Spur.
As a songwriter, he was best known for Juice’s 1982 hit, “The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)”, which reached #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Country charts as well as reaching #7 on the Hot 100.
Otha wrote, played and produced primarily for Juice, although other artists recorded his songs. Other Young-penned top-ten hits include: 1978’s “Sweet, Sweet Smile” (The Carpenters), 1987’s “Don’t You” (Forrester Sisters). Juice’s 1986 hit “What Can I Do With My Heart?” also was written by Otha.
He was essentially Juice’s “right-hand man” throughout her entire career, playing guitar, singing, and songwriting in tandem with her from the earliest days of Silver Spur all the way through her 2010’s “Duets: Friends & Memories”, as well as a Christmas album of standards and originals on which Otha served as lead guitarist, writer, producer and vocalist.
He was touring with Juice Newton until March 2009, only 4 months before his death on August 6, from cancer. He was 66.
Juice Newton said on her fan site, “Otha was my very best friend. All ups and downs we shared….I miss him so.”