The songwriter left pro football, but he's still playing defense

November 11, 1991|By Milton Kent

FEW PEOPLE IN life intend to be outsiders, to set themselves apart from the world around them, and Mike Reid is no different.

It's just that Reid, at heart, is a thinker and not given to the trappings of the community he exists in.

That didn't exactly endear him to the front office in his life in professional football, and it's made him a bit of a loner in his current profession, country singer/songwriter.

But that's OK by Reid.

"People may think I'm paranoid, but it's my perception that I am viewed as an outsider here," said Reid from the basement of his Nashville home.

"Nashville doesn't revere anything too much out of the countrfield. I'm not a member of the country music scene, but that doesn't bother me. I just do what I do."

Tomorrow night, Reid appears at a sold-out concert at Martin's ++ West, sponsored by WPOC-FM. What he used to do -- and very well -- was play defensive tackle.

A Penn State graduate, Reid won the Outland Trophy, awarded to college football's top offensive or defensive lineman, and was the sixth player chosen in the 1970 National Football League draft by Cincinnati.

He was named the American Football Conference's defensive rookie of the year and was named All-Pro three times in his five-year career.

But, in the back of his mind, there had always been music. Indeed, Reid had made some off-season appearances as a guest pianist with orchestras in Dallas, San Antonio and Cincinnati, and he retired from football at the age of 27 to pursue a music career.

Reid stumbled around a bit, playing with a band for about a year, then touring as a solo act, before moving with his wife, Susan, to Nashville in 1980 for a $100-per-week songwriting job while his wife waited tables.

Reid, now 44, finally struck gold with a No. 1 hit, "Inside," for Ronnie Milsap, and his career took off from there.

He won a Grammy for a 1985 collaboration, "Stranger in My House," with Milsap, has been nominated for another and has written for artists as diverse as Joe Cocker, the Judds, Tammy Wynette and the Oak Ridge Boys.

In addition, he has co-written two moving pieces for Bonnie Raitt, "Too Soon To Tell," from her breakthrough "Nick of Time," and "I Can't Make You Love Me," the current single from Raitt's "Luck of the Draw" album.

Both are the stories of love gone bad, and Reid calls them "my best songs."

"It was a thrill to write those," said Reid. "I had it ["I Can't Make You Love Me"] written in time to do it on my album, but I'm not sure it would have fit in.

"I love the way those two songs are put together. I love the reciprocity of the words and music."

And although Raitt told GQ magazine earlier this year that Reid has "an incredibly soulful voice and he sings as well as he writes," and despite the success of his debut solo album, "Turning for Home," which hit the top of the Billboard country charts this year, Reid disagrees.

"I'm at heart a songwriter. I don't think singing is my strength at all. I'm not a great singer at all."

"I'm of the belief that there aren't many good singers out there and those that are out there aren't being heard."

Oddly enough, for a guy who has been on the outside for so long, Reid thinks the openness of country music has served to draw in so many who have been otherwise disaffected by popular music in general.

"I know that I feel powerless to the size of the government. I feel powerless to crime and drugs and drive-by shootings. I think to myself, 'What can I do?'" said Reid.

"In the middle of all that comes this very accessible form of music. It opens a door and says, 'Why don't you come in and check this out.'"

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