This Aug. 22, 2018 file photo shows Joe Diffie at the 12th annual ACM Honors in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Al Wagner/Invision/AP, File)
Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles such as Home and Pick-up Man, has died aged 61 after testing positive for COVID-19.
Diffie on Friday announced he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis.
Diffie's publicist Scott Adkins said the singer died Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, due to complications from the virus.
Diffie, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years.
“Even though I’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s like I want to pinch myself still. It’s an awful neat deal to be able to live out your dream.” - Joe Diffie— Grand Ole Opry (@opry) March 29, 2020
Joe, thank you for all of the music and light you've given us. Thank you for letting us be part of your dream. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/QY0wzZAm08
His hits included Honky Tonk Attitude, Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die), Bigger Than the Beatles and If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).
His mid-90s albums Honky Tonk Attitude and Third Rock From the Sun went platinum.
Just found out the very sad news about my buddy #JoeDiffie passing away from complications of COVID-19.— John Michael Montgomery (@JM2Squared) March 29, 2020
This is so heartbreaking, I just don’t even know what to say. GOD BLESS his family and loved ones. A sad, sad day for country music. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/ausMDxzd8F
Eighteen of Diffie's singles landed in the top 10 on the country charts, with five going No.1.
Diffie shared in a Grammy award for best country collaboration for the song Same Old Train with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and others.
His last solo album was 2010's The Bluegrass Album: Homecoming.
"Joe was a real true honky tonk hero to every country artist alive today," singer John Rich said in a statement.
"No one sang our music better than he did, and to see his life and artistry cut short is beyond tragic. He was loved, cherished and respected by all of country music and beyond."
Deanna Carter said she was "shell-shocked" by the news and had hoped to perform again with Diffie this year.
"He was a powerhouse that stopped people in their tracks, both on and off stage," she said.
Diffie is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from four marriages.
Here’s to you Pickup Man. You inspired an entire generation of country singers and accepted us all with kindness, gratitude and buckets of talent. 🙏🏼 #joediffie— Granger Smith (@GrangerSmith) March 29, 2020
© AP 2020