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Otha Young dies at 66; songwriter of 'The Sweetest Thing (I've Ever Known)' for Juice Newton

Young and Newton had a long collaboration. He played guitar with her and also served for a time as her road manager.

August 21, 2009|Keith Thursby

Otha Young, who wrote the 1980s hit "The Sweetest Thing (I've Ever Known)" for Grammy-winning singer Juice Newton during their long musical partnership, died of cancer Aug. 6 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said his wife, Brenda. He was 66.

Young played guitar with Newton since the 1970s, appearing on all of her albums. He wrote primarily for Newton and was a singer, producer and for a time also served as Newton's road manager.

"The Sweetest Thing" was a No. 1 hit on adult contemporary and country charts.

"He was selfless in order to make this successful," Newton said this week. "He was a very sensitive writer . . . and the easiest person to work with. Everyone said so, and you don't hear that very often."

They first appeared as Sweet Jubal and later called themselves Dixie Peach, working coffeehouses in Northern California. The band became known as Juice Newton and Silver Spur and started recording in Southern California under Newton's name in the mid-1970s.

Robert Otha Young was born May 10, 1943, in Tulare, Calif. He attended San Jose State on a football scholarship, earning a degree in behavioral sciences. He also wrestled for one season.

He didn't start playing guitar until after college. "He had natural ability, he was soulful," said producer Michael Huey, who played drums for Newton and Young during the 1980s. "He was really incredibly well rounded."

Young toured with Newton until March, and they finished a CD called "The Gift of Christmas," his wife said.

Young is also survived by their daughter, Makena.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Encino, 4963 Balboa Blvd. Instead of flowers, his family requests donations to an education fund for his daughter: Otha Young Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 230850, Encinitas, CA 92023.

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keith.thursby@latimes.com

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