Pop icon Taylor Swift and the Southern gospel group The Isaacs were recognized recently for their contributions to music and their ties to Hendersonville.
Local and state dignitaries braved the cold and rain on Dec. 16 to unveil Tennessee Music Pathways markers at two separate ceremonies in their honor.
The Tennessee Music Pathways, an online guide highlighting the musical heritage in all of the state’s 95 counties, was launched by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development in 2018, noted Commissioner Mark Ezell, who attended both ceremonies.
“Whether larger cities or our smallest communities, we can feature these landmarks and these attractions from the seven genres of music that call Tennessee home,” he said, noting that Tennessee is home to blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock-n-roll music.
“Our goal really is not just to connect the fans to the music, but to really to inspire the travel,” Ezell added.
There are currently around 300 points of interest on the Tennessee Music Pathways, according to Ezell.
“Long before Hendersonville was known as the City by the Lake, it was known as the Home of the Stars,” said Mayor Jamie Clary, adding that luminaries like Conway Twitty, Bob Luman, Johnny Cash, and the Mandrell sisters have all called Hendersonville home.
Clary said the markers, like the one at the site of the former House of Cash at 700 East Main Street, have a positive impact on the city.
“Something like this encourages people to come to Hendersonville and we appreciate those tax dollars,” he said.
Swift’s marker was unveiled at Memorial Park in front of Kids’ Kingdom – a playground she helped rebuild following the 2010 flood that devastated the Middle Tennessee area.
Swift moved to Hendersonville from Pennsylvania to pursue a career in songwriting at the age of 14 in 2004. She attended Ellis Middle School for a short time, as well as Hendersonville High School while opening up for some of the hottest names in country music.
In 2010, she became the youngest Grammy Award winner for Album of the Year, with Fearless, an album that spawned five chart-topping hits. Her foray into pop music has netted her super-stardom status. With her 2014 album “1989,” Swift won her second Grammy for Album of the Year, making her the first solo female to win two Album of the Year nods.
Swift released her ninth studio album on Dec. 11, and continues to reference Hendersonville in her lyrics, noted Parks Director Andy Gilley.
“On her latest album… there was mention of being at the parking lot between the Methodist and ‘the school I grew up,’” said Gilley who taught at HHS while Swift was a student at the school. “Around here we call that the junior parking lot. So a whole new generation are learning about what Taylor did while she lived here.”
Former Parks Director Dave LeMarbre, who is currently serving as interim city administrator, told of receiving a phone call from Swift’s representative following the 2010 flood.
“She said that [Taylor] would like to make a sizeable donation, and I’m thinking $15,000-$20,000,” said LeMarbre. “We got a check in the mail a couple of weeks later and it was for $100,000. I’m glad I was sitting down.”
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Taylor and her family,” he said.
Lily Isaacs: ‘We’ll never forget it’
State and local officials then made their way to Veterans Park where a marker was dedicated in front of Mary’s Magical Place in honor of The Isaacs – a Southern gospel family group that has called the city home for 20 years.
“The people that make some of the best music in the world - they love to perform in Nashville and around the world - but they love to live right here in Hendersonville,” said state Rep. William Lamberth. “And that is an amazing thing.”
The Isaacs formed in 1970 when Lily and Joe Isaacs married and started performing bluegrass gospel music together. When their children Ben, Becky and Sonya, each born in the early 1970’s were old enough, they joined the group that became the Isaacs. Known for their rich harmonies and powerful melodies, the group has won several DOVE awards, and perform frequently on the Grand Ole Opry. They are active members on Gaither Homecoming Videos and Concert Series and have performed across the globe.
“Thousands of people every year are going to walk by this and they’re going to learn who the Isaacs are - that’s the importance of these [markers],” said Gilley. “People like the Isaacs are what make Hendersonville, Hendersonville. Thank you all for what you’ve done for music, thank you for what you’ve done for our community.”
“I can’t tell you how honored we are,” said the group’s matriarch, Lily Isaacs. A native of Munich, Germany following World War II, Lily Isaac’s parents were both Holocaust survivors, she noted.
“I wish my parents could see this day,” she said. “We’re so proud of this community and we hope that millions of people come to this beautiful park. Thanks for honoring us this way and we’ll never forget it.”