News Column

Johnny Mann remembered as energetic, dynamic and talented

June 29, 2014

By Sarah Freishtat, Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.

June 29--Songwriter Johnny Mann composed his music at the table, not at the piano. He could pick out wrong notes sung by anyone sitting within five rows of him at church choir practice.

Those were some of the remembrances Mann's friends shared at his memorial service Saturday morning. Friends and family filled the pews at St. John's United Methodist Church in Anderson to hear about Mann's music and the people it touched in Anderson, Texas and Tennessee.

They remembered Mann as energetic, entertaining and talented. He was dynamic, they said, and he believed in God and the power of prayer.

"He loved his music, and he loved hearing his music," said his friend Doug Douglas. "He put so much into it. He put his heart into it, and he loved hearing his heart."

Mann, who recorded 42 albums and won two Grammy Awards, died June 18 at age 85. He performed twice at the White House and had his own television show. He was the voice of Theodore in "Alvin and the Chipmunks."

Mann was born in Baltimore and served in the Army from 1951 until 1953. He moved to Anderson with his wife, Betty, in 2005, after years of mingling with Hollywood stars such as Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Mann became involved with Anderson University, where he conducted choirs and received an honorary degree.

"The minute John stepped in front of a group of musicians at a concert at Anderson University, he went from being 85 to 25," said Terry Price, a music director at a Dallas church where Mann occasionally directed the choir.

Mann wrote a new Alma Mater, "Sounds of Anderson," for the school's centennial anniversary in 2011.

"The sounds of Anderson live in my heart, live in my memories, the sounds of joy," Mann wrote. "The dreams of Anderson tell tales of tears and happiness in golden days gone by."

Mann wrote one of his songs, "One Nation Under God," in about an hour and 45 minutes, his friend Douglas said. It happened at a time of national debate about removing references to God from the Pledge of Allegiance, and Mann wanted to show his love of his nation, Douglas said.

Douglas said he considered Mann a brother and minister.

"We both believed we were the luckiest men in the world," Douglas said.

Price, the Dallas church music director, said he grew up listening to Mann's albums in the 1960s and watching Mann on TV. He kept a stuffed Theodore chipmunk at his side during his speech Saturday.

When Price had the opportunity to contact Mann while planning a concert nearly a decade ago, he took it.

It was a good thing Price had a black-and-white TV in the 1960s, he said Saturday, because he couldn't see how bright some of Mann's patterned outfits were.

"I'm seeing John now as the new associate director of the heavenly choir," Price said. "Boy, is there some joyous music going on."


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Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)

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