Joe Diffie, one of country music’s top artists in the 1990s, died from the coronavirus on Sunday, according to Fox News. He was 61.
Fellow country artists mourned the sudden loss of a talented songwriter, known for hits like “Pickup Man,” “Honky Tonk Attitude,” and “Third Rock From the Sun.” The news came just two days after Diffie announced that he had contracted COVID-19.
“GRAMMY-winning country music legend Joe Diffie passed away today, Sunday, March 29, from complications of coronavirus,” a statement from his publicist read, according to Fox. “His family respects their privacy at this time.”
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The virus claims a legend
Although his recording career dithered in the 2000s, Diffie, a Tulsa native, was beloved by fans and stars alike as one of the 1990s’ top country talents, scoring a series of No. 1 and top 10 songs over the course of the decade, according to NBC News.
After working as a demo singer in Nashville in the 1980s, Diffie signed a contract with Epic in 1990 and recorded a series of successful records that would define his career, starting with 1990’s “Home,” NBC reported. He later became known for evocative ballads like “Is It Cold in Here?” and “Ships that Don’t Come In,” as well as upbeat numbers that gave him some of his biggest success, like “Pick Up Man,” “Prop Me up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” and “John Deere Green,” according to music critic Steve Huey.
Over the course of his recording career, Diffie cut 13 albums, including two platinum-certified albums, Honky Tonk Attitude and Third Rock from the Sun, according to NBC. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 25 years, a member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and a Grammy award winner.
Diffie had revealed his diagnosis on Friday, making him the first country star to reveal that he had contracted COVID-19, according to CBS News. Two days later, he died from complications from the disease, his publicist said.
“Our memories cannot be taken away”
Although his career slowed down eventually, Diffie received a tribute in 2012 from country star Jason Aldean, who referenced him in the song, “1994,” and the news of his death was received with an outpouring of grief from fellow country artists like Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley.
“I’m devastated by the loss of my friend [Diffie]. I can’t find adequate words,” Paisley tweeted, according to CBS. “But the records he made, that voice, the twinkle in his eye, and our memories cannot be taken away by this disease. Please celebrate his music today everyone, go listen again to his records.”
Underwood, for her part, expressed disbelief. “Absolutely no words for the loss of Joe Diffie. The music and legacy he leaves behind are legendary. Prayers for his family and friends,” she said, according to CBS.
Diffie is survived by his wife and four children. As of Monday afternoon, he was one of nearly 3,000 Americans who have been killed by the coronavirus, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.