NEW YORK (AP) – Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like â€œHomeâ€ and â€œPickup Man,â€ has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 61.
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. His hits included â€œHonky Tonk Attitude,” â€œProp Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” â€œBigger Than the Beatles” and â€œIf the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).â€
His mid-90s albums â€œHonkey Tonk Attitudeâ€ and â€œThird Rock From the Sunâ€ went platinum. Eighteen of Diffie’s singles landed in the top 10 on the country charts, with five going No. 1. In his 2013 single â€œ1994,â€ Jason Aldean name-checked the ’90s country mainstay.
Diffie shared in a Grammy award for best country collaboration for the song â€œSame Old Train,â€ with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and others. His last solo album was 2010’s â€œThe Bluegrass Album: Homecoming.â€
â€œJoe was a real true honky tonk hero to every country artist alive today,â€ singer John Rich said in a statement. â€œNo 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.â€
Deanna Carter said she was â€œshell shockedâ€ by the news and had hoped to perform again with Diffie this year. â€œHe was a powerhouse that stopped people in their tracks, both on and off stage,â€ she said in a statement.
Diffie is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from four marriages.