A shocking scene occurred this weekend when a folk musician died while performing on stage. David Olney, a singer-songwriter whose work has been covered by artists including Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, was performing at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida on Saturday. During the middle of a song, the 71-year-old suffered a heart attack. He died shortly after.

Amy Rigby and Scott Miller, two other musicians performing at the festival, were onstage with Olney when he died. The two musicians wrote posts about the incident on their respective Facebook pages. “Olney was in the middle of his third song when he stopped, apologized and shut his eyes. He was very still, sitting upright with his guitar on,” said Rigby, who was sitting next to Olney when he had his heart attack. Rigby also said that a few doctors present at the event tried to revive Olney, but to no avail. “I am so sorry for his wife and family and friends and all the people who loved him and his music. Even those who never heard of him,” continued Rigby.

Miller’s Facebook post corroborates the details Rigby provided. “David was playing a song when he paused, said ‘I’m sorry’ and put his chin to his chest. He never dropped his guitar or fell off his stool,” said Miller about the incident. “It was as easy and gentle as he was,” he continued.

Olney first began to attract attention to his music after he moved to Nashville in 1973. His style of music made fans of Ronstadt and Townes Van Zandt. “David Olney tells marvelous stories, with characters who cling to the hope of enduring love, all the while crossing the deep divide into that long, dark night of the soul,” said Ronstadt of his music.


Although many are saddened by the unfortunate death of an accomplished musician, some choose to look for the silver lining. “The world lost a good one last night. But we still have his work. And it still inspires. And always will,” wrote Miller.