Robert Knight, the singer behind the 1967 hit "Everlasting Love," died on Nov. 4 at the age of 72.
The star passed away from a short illness while at his home in Tennessee, The Tennessean reports.
Knight was a student studying chemistry at Tennessee State University before he was discovered by music producer Mac Gayden, according to the Daily Mail.
Knight rose to fame after "Everlasting Love" shot up the charts, debuting at No. 14 on the US R&B chart and 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967
Carl Carlton, Love Affair, U2 and Gloria Estefan would later cover the song. Love Affair's version eventually reached No. 1 in the U.K.
To some, Knight was a maverick.
"With 'Everlasting Love,' Knight created the blueprint for one of the most famous, most enduring songs to ever come out of Music City," said Michael Gray, a historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "Recording extensively with Mac Gayden and Buzz Cason in the 1960s, Robert was working in integrated bands when it was still taboo to do so in some places. "
In a way, Knight's work also represented much-needed racial unity amid extreme tensions.
"The original version of 'Everlasting Love' is a prime example of the successful musical exchange between black and white musicians during a decade of great racial upheaval and Civil Rights struggles in the South," Gray added.
While he did not achieve the same success with his other songs, Knight still had a number of small hits before he left the music world. Those hits include "Blessed Are the Lonely" and "Love on a Mountain Top."
After he retired from music, Knight worked as a lab technician in Vanderbilt University's chemistry department. He was also a part of the grounds crew.
But his imprint on the music world lingered even after he left the industry: Knight was featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's 2004 exhibit "Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm and Blues."
"We wanted to show a prime example of how one Nashville R&B song has lived on in popular culture over the decades," Gray said of "Everlasting Love." "While we had several options, the decision to use that uplifting song was an easy choice."
Fans online agree with Gray's sentiments. Many are mourning the loss of the singer.
"I just listened to him sing it and it made me break down and cry," wrote one person in the Daily Mail's comments section. "What a wonderful rich world of music we had back then. Thank you for your precious contribution to it Mr. Knight."