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Songwriter Hank Cochran dies at 74

By Ric Ward, CNN
  • Hank Cochran penned hits for Patsy Cline and Ronnie Milsap
  • He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International Hall of Fame
  • Cochan's songs have been played 36 million times on the radio

(CNN) -- Songwriter Hank Cochran died at his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Thursday. He was 74.

Cochran wrote or co-wrote standards like "I Fall To Pieces," which was a hit for Patsy Cline. Eddy Arnold recorded Cochran's "Make The World Go Away." "The Chair" and "Ocean Front Property " were Cochran tunes George Strait took to chart success.

Cochran was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International Hall of Fame by unanimous vote in 1974.

Cochran's catalogue has generated almost 36 million performances, which, if played back to back, would amount to more than 200 years of continuous airplay, according to BMI.

The night before he died, recording artists Billy Ray Cyrus and Jamey Johnson, along with songwriter and record producer Buddy Cannon visited and sang songs with the ailing Cochran, his publicist said.

Cochran has had numerous health problems in recent years. He underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2008 and had triple bypass surgery in 2005. Earlier this year he had emergency surgery when doctors discovered an aortic aneurysm the size of a grapefruit.

At the age of 12, Cochran hitchhiked with his uncle from his native Mississippi to New Mexico where he worked as a roustabout and roughneck in state's oil fields, according to his MySpace page.

In 1960, Cochran began working as a songwriter for Nashville's Pamper Music for $50 a week. While there, he convinced the company to hire another up-and-coming songwriter, Willie Nelson.

"I have a theory that somebody beside me must write my songs because half of the time I don't have the slightest idea where they come from. I even wake up out of a dead sleep and write a song completely," Cochran said.

"I wrote 'A Funny Way of Laughing' that way," according to Cochran. "I wrote words and everything. I ran over the melody a couple of times before I went back to sleep to make sure I wouldn't forget it."

"I tell people all the time, I don't write songs," Cochran told the Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion Ledger in a 2003 interview. "God writes 'em, and I just hold the pen."