HIV-positive country and western singer–songwriter Hinson was living a secret life. He’d already come out as bisexual – the first in Nashville to do so. But that was only the start.
Poz magazine reported recently "Nashville is all loving and supportive, on its face," says Charles "Hoss" Burns, once a high-profile country-music deejay on WSIX in Nashville (see "Good Morning, Nashville"). "But when it comes right down to it, being HIV positive can easily screw up your career and your life here. It's still not something that's easy to say in this town?”
Here’s what his website says about him.
“In 1996, Jimbeau Hinson was seeing the financial rewards of “Party Crowd,” the song he co-wrote with David Lee Murphy that was named “Most Played Country Song” of 1995.
The veteran songwriter should have been in high cotton. Instead, Hinson was wasting away; eleven years living secretively as HIV-positive had taken an exhaustive toll.
But a funny thing happened on his way to the hereafter; he lived. “After years of decline and near death, I came back a soul reborn. I am here to remind people to be grateful for each healthy breath, treat each day as a gift, and live them all with an open, honest heart.”
Little Jimmy Hinson was barely eye-ball-high to a bar stool when he first hopped on stage in Newton, Mississippi. He was 16 when he signed a publishing deal, won his first ASCAP award a year later, and traveled the road with every major Grand Ole Opry star.
Moving to Nashville after high school, he snagged a job managing The Oak Ridge Boys’ publishing companies, wrote songs and worked clubs. In the early 70's he made the brave choice to come out of the closet. “I was the first out and open bisexual singer/songwriter in Nashville.”
Though it hurt his aspirations to be a recording artist, it didn’t stop his impressive career as a songwriter. His eclectic catalogue includes The Oak Ridge Boys #1 smash “I’m Settin’ Fancy Free,” Steve Earle’s classic “Hillbilly Highway,” Patty Loveless’s first country single “After All,” and Brenda Lee’s last, “Broken Trust.”
What stopped Hinson in 1985 was the devastating news that he was HIV-positive. He and his beloved wife Brenda Fielder made the wrenching decision to keep this truth to themselves, primarily to protect the business she had built.
They moved into an old farm house 45 minutes from Nashville on property that had been in her family for six generations. He breathed what life he had left into that farm determined to leave Brenda with the ranch of her childhood dreams.
With the advent of the first effective drugs; he began to gain weight and feel like his old self. But fate found him racing to the emergency room and slipping into a coma. Eight weeks later he woke up, after crossing over in the company of his deceased father. For no medical reason he miraculously recovered.
Fifteen years later he was working on that ranch when his dear friend and fellow songwriter Sandy Knox called. “She said, ‘Jimbeau, I’m going to start a record label and I want you to be one of the first artists I sign.’” Knox—one of the few people who always knew Hinson’s status—is keenly interested in how his journey affected him artistically and spiritually.
“Sandy believes there’s a musical way to tell this story. As grand as it sounds, I want this album to be the soundtrack of my life, and my book will fill in the rest. I’m just grateful I’m here to do it.”