Friday, January 12, 2018

Bonnie Hearne, fixture of New Mexico's folk and country scene, dies at age 71

By Steve Terrell

Bonnie Hearne, a singer and piano player who was half of a celebrated musical couple that entertained New Mexico audiences with their folk and country music for decades, is dead. Her death Dec. 26 came only months after she and husband Bill Hearne were honored as part of the first group of New Mexico musicians to receive Platinum Music Awards for lifetime achievement from the New Mexico Music Commission Foundation. Bonnie Hearne, 71, died from complications with sepsis, an internal bacterial infection, Bill Hearne said in a telephone interview. We would have been married 47 years next Tuesday," Bill Hearne said. The Hearnes have appeared on albums with such musical greats as Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Buck Owens and Emmylou Harris. Lovett once opened a show for the Hearnes. Born in Corsicana, Texas, east of Dallas, Bonnie Hearne had been blind since 9 years old. She learned to play piano as a child at the Texas School for the Blind in Austin, her earliest influences being gospel and folk music. She met Bill Hearne, who is legally blind, through a mutual friend in Austin in 1968, soon after she earned a degree in sociology from the University of Texas. Bill Hearne was going to the university then. The two got together and sang a few old songs by folk music icons Ian & Sylvia. "I was trying to play guitar then," Bonnie Hearne recalled in a 1997 interview. "It wasn't cool to play piano at that point." The couple became regular performers at The Chequered Flag and other small clubs in Austin. Within a few years, Austin became the epicenter for the "outlaw country" or "cosmic cowboy" musical insurgency. Although they never became as famous as many of their Austin peers, the Hearnes were part of that landscape. They became regular performers at the Kerrville Folk Festival. And during those years, they influenced then-unknown young performers, such as Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith, who has said she used to sneak into bars to hear the Hearnes when she was too young to be there legally. The Hearnes moved to New Mexico in 1979, landing in Red River, where they resided for more than a decade. They moved to Santa Fe in 1991. They quickly became regulars in Santa Fe music spots, especially La Fonda, where they had a large fan base of local western dance enthusiasts...more

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