BILLBOARD COUNTRY UPDATE
FEBRUARY 7, 2013 | PAGE 4 OF 8
Jimbeau Hinson made quite a name for himself on Music Row as a song- writer on David Lee Murphy’s “Party Crowd,” the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Fancy Free” and Brenda Lee’s “Broken Trust.” So when he contracted HIV in the 1980s, he did what most people would have done: He shared the news with only a handful of trusted and tried to protect his name. At the time the virus carried a greater social stigma, and it was assumed to be a fatal diagnosis. Hinson eventually began sharing his story in music circles, and he’s now documented his journey for the public with a new album, Strong Medicine, on Wrinkled Records. He also plans to publish a book.
This is a big step in acknowledging publicly something a lot of people would prefer to keep hidden. Why are you sharing your experiences?
JBH: Because there’s a new HIV infection in this country every nine-and-a-half minutes. A woman is infected every 35 minutes. World- wide, a baby is born HIV-positive every minute. Nobody’s talking about it anymore. They just think it’s a chronic condition. Nobody’s talking about how expensive the drugs are, nobody’s talking about how they don’t work on everybody, how your life revolves around medications and how this virus replicates and morphs its way around the medications. It’s a chronic disease. You have to stay ever-vigilant and it costs a fortune and you have to be very lucky to survive this. And kids today, thank God, the wheel has turned, and they don’t think it’s a big deal to be LGBT anymore. The trouble is they don’t think it’s a big deal to be HIV-positive either.
Once you share that news, you can’t put it back in the closet. Are you always at peace at this point with being this open?
JBH: Well, you know, I passed over in the company of my deceased father in 1996 while in a coma and it was the most peaceful, reassuring—it took all the fear and anger away from me when I actually woke up for no medical reason in ICU. I came back with a great sense of peace. God is eternal, life is eternal. I’d go back to be with God again. I felt that blessed, melting back into Him again for a moment, and I know my daddy will be there to welcome me over there. So yes, I’m at peace. If somebody doesn’t understand, it’s their problem, it’s not mine.
Sandy Knox, the president of Wrinkled Records, wrote the AIDS-themed Reba McEntire song, “She Thinks His Name Was John.” What’s your relationship with Sandy?
JBH: Sandy and I go way back to the
early ’80s, when she first moved to town. We just became lifelong friends. Her brother had passed from a blood transfusion, one of the first, and she was one of the few that knew I was HIV-positive back when I was hiding and she kept the secret for 12 years. So Sandy and I have always been tight. Once I got well again, she took a bunch of us on that Nashville Trash [bus] tour. Brenda [Hinson’s wife of 33 years] and I spent the night because we live 45 minutes out of town and I got up the next morning and Sandy had on a pot of coffee and said, “Whatcha been doin’?” I said, “Oh, I’ve been working on a book of my life for about 20, 30 years. It was my therapy.” She said, “Well, read me some of it.” So I started, and two hours later and two pots of coffee and a box of Kleenex, we just laughed and cried, laughed and cried. She called me a few months later and said, “I’m gonna start a record label and the world needs to hear this story.”
You said before that you were well. What exactly does that mean? It doesn’t just go away.
JBH: I’m non-detectable and I’m not having any serious health issues due to the HIV. The meds on the other hand—I have to watch an ulcer that the meds had caused, I’ve got bone deterioration from the AZT and I’m having trouble with a herniated disc. My teeth have caps because it weakened the enamel on my teeth. There are several ailments I deal with due to meds, and you know, just fucking growing old. A little bit of high blood pressure. Not much. I go to the gym three to four days a week and take it easy. I worked out as a young man, and muscle has memory. It helps that I was healthy to start with. I think if I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have survived it. I encourage people to take care of their bodies and treat it as the temple it is.
Now that you’ve done an album about this whole process, how do you feel?
JBH: Somewhere between pensive and relieved. I feel that it could possibly do some good for some people. It’s not a selfish motivation at all. I feel like it’s a project with a purpose that could possibly get a message out there to hold a light up in somebody else’s darkness. If it helps one person out, it will all be worth it. —Tom Roland