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Holly Dunn
Promotional image of Holly Dunn, 1995
Holly Suzette Dunn

(1957-08-22)August 22, 1957
DiedNovember 14, 2016(2016-11-14) (aged 59)
Alma mater Abilene Christian College
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Relatives Chris Waters (brother)
Musical career
Genres Country
Years active1985–2003

Holly Suzette Dunn (August 22, 1957 – November 14, 2016) was an American country music singer and songwriter. Dunn recorded for MTM Records between 1985 and 1988, Warner Bros. Records between 1988 and 1993, and River North Records between 1995 and 1997. She released 10 albums and charted 19 singles, plus two duets on the Hot Country Songs charts. Two of her single releases, " Are You Ever Gonna Love Me" and " You Really Had Me Going", went to No. 1 on that chart. Other songs for which she is known include " Daddy's Hands" and " Maybe I Mean Yes". Dunn's brother, Chris Waters, is a songwriter and record producer, having worked with both his sister and other artists in these capacities. Dunn retired from music in 2003, and died of ovarian cancer in 2016.


Early years and MTM Records

Holly Suzette Dunn was born August 22, 1957. Her parents were a Church of Christ preacher and a landscape painter. [1]

While attending high school, Dunn performed in a band called Freedom Folk Singers, which toured the Southern United States. She attended Abilene Christian University and performed in a school-sponsored group called The Hilltoppers. [2] Dunn also wrote songs with her brother, Chris Waters, who later became a prolific songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee. One of their collaborations, "Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind", was recorded by Cristy Lane. After graduating from college, Dunn moved to Nashville, where she worked as a demo singer before both Waters and she became songwriters at CBS Records, and then MTM Records. Louise Mandrell had a top-10 hit in 1984 with " I'm Not Through Loving You Yet", which the two co-wrote. [2] By 1985, Dunn was signed to a record contract with MTM.

Dunn's first two releases — "Playing for Keeps" and "My Heart Holds On" — both failed to make the Top 40 on the Hot Country Songs charts, while "Two Too Many" peaked at No. 39. Her first Top 10 hit came in 1986, when " Daddy's Hands", a tribute to her father, [3] peaked at No. 7 on that chart. [4] Dunn, who wrote "Daddy's Hands" single-handedly, noted that the song's success led to many fans sharing positive experiences about their own fathers with her. [5] The song was included on her self-titled debut, from which it served as the final single. Following this song, she sang guest vocals on Michael Martin Murphey's Top 5 hit " A Face in the Crowd", from his album Americana. [4] She was named the Academy of Country Music's Top New Female Vocalist in 1986, and then the winner of Country Music Association's Horizon Award in 1987.

Her second MTM album, Cornerstone, produced three straight top-10 hits in " Love Someone Like Me", " Only When I Love", and " Strangers Again". [4] Across the Rio Grande in 1988 included the singles " That's What Your Love Does to Me" and " (It's Always Gonna Be) Someday", [4] before MTM Records filed for bankruptcy and closed. [2]

Warner Bros. Records, Grand Ole Opry, River North Records

In 1989, Dunn moved to Warner Bros. Records' Nashville division. Her first release for the label, The Blue Rose of Texas, produced her first number-one hit in " Are You Ever Gonna Love Me", followed by " There Goes My Heart Again" at number four. The latter was co-written by a then-unknown Joe Diffie, [6] who also sang backing vocals on it. She also became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1989. She also sang on Kenny Rogers' late 1990 hit " Maybe", from his album Something Inside So Strong. [4]

Dunn's second Warner Bros. album, Heart Full of Love, was released in 1990. Although its lead single "My Anniversary for Being a Fool" failed to make the top 40, the followup " You Really Had Me Going" became her second and final number-one hit, while the title track was a top-20 hit. [4]

In 1991, Dunn released her first greatest hits package, Milestones: Greatest Hits. It included the new release " Maybe I Mean Yes", which became controversial due to some listeners interpreting the song as condoning date rape. As a result, Dunn asked for the single to be withdrawn from rotation. [7] Her final Warner Bros. release, Getting It Dunn, failed to produce a top-40 hit, and she exited the label in 1993. [4]

Dunn signed to River North Records in 1995 and released two albums for the label: Life and Love and All the Stages in 1995 and Leave One Bridge Standing two years later. The former produced her final chart entry in "I Am Who I Am". [4] Shortly before the release of Leave One Bridge Standing, she joined country music radio station WWWW in Detroit, Michigan, as morning show co-host. It was not her first time behind the radio mike, as she had served as a DJ during her college years. However, the decision forced her to give up touring for a time. Later, she co-hosted Opry Backstage on the Nashville Network in 1999–2002. [8]

Retirement and death

In 2003, Dunn announced her retirement from her musical career and released her final album, Full Circle, which was her only gospel album, to devote full-time to her other passion, art. Her paintings deal primarily with subjects from the Southwestern United States. [8]

On November 14, 2016, Dunn died of ovarian cancer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at age 59. [9] She was survived by her wife, Melissa Taylor, and her brothers, Chris, Jerry and Rodney.


Studio albums

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1987 " Daddy's Hands" Best Female Country Vocal Performance Nominated
Best Country Song Nominated
1988 " A Face in the Crowd" Best Country Collaboration with Vocals Nominated

TNN/Music City News Country Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1988 Holly Dunn Female Artist of the Year Nominated
Star of Tomorrow Nominated
1989 Nominated

Academy of Country Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1987 Holly Dunn Top New Female Vocalist Won

Country Music Association Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1987 " Daddy's Hands" Song of the Year Nominated
Holly Dunn Horizon Award Won
Holly Dunn and Michael Martin Murphy Vocal Duo of the Year Nominated


  1. ^ Paul Kingsbury, ed. (16 December 2004). The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music. Oxford University Press. ISBN  9780199840441.
  2. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Holly Dunn Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  3. ^ Stambler, Irwin; Laudon, Grelon (14 July 2000). Country Music: The Encyclopedia. Macmillan. p. 144. ISBN  9780312264871.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 133. ISBN  978-0-89820-177-2.
  5. ^ "'Daddy's Hands' lifting up Holly Dunn". The Tennessean. November 8, 1986. pp. D1. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  6. ^ Sharpe, Jerry (24 November 1990). "Joe Diffie's Loss Was Joe Diffie's Gain". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  7. ^ Meyers, Kate (16 August 1991). "Holly Dunn's Controversial Single". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  8. ^ a b Freeman, Jon (15 November 2016). "'Daddy's Hands' Singer Holly Dunn Dead at 59". Rolling Stone. ISSN  0035-791X.
  9. ^ Roberts, Sam (15 November 2016). "Holly Dunn, Country Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 59". The New York Times. p. B16.

External links