This is one of four blogs I dreaded needing to write. Jim Nabors, the iconic, legendary singer of “Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500, died today at 87. He had been in ill health for quite some time and had not been back to the Speedway for a few years.
Like hearing Tom Carnegie on the PA,, Nabors’ singing proclaimed, ” Race time is near.” When he finished, the command to start engines was the next order of business. The pre race ceremonies, starting with “Taps” and ending with the command, still gives me goose bumps.
Nabors first sang at the 500 in 1972 when Tony Hulman asked him if he wanted to sing 30 minutes before the race began. He assumed he would be singing the National Anthem, but when he discovered it was (Back Home Again in) “Indiana”, he wrote the words on his hands. A couple years later, he became the annual singer for that revered part of the pre race ceremony.
Jim last sung at the 2014 race. An idea was floated to have him return for the 100th running, but he was too ill to travel.
So another Speedway legend has left us. I was fortunate to be at the race for each of his performances. No matter who has sung at the race the last few years, and Jim Cornelison was excellent last year, I still hear Jim Nabors’ voice singing. Rest in Peace, Jim.