Just two days after it was revealed that Joe Diffie had tested positive for COVID-19, his publicist, Scott Adkins, has confirmed that the country legend has died due to coronavirus complications. No further details of Diffie’s death have been given at this time. The Grammy-winner and 25-year member of the Grand Ole Opry was 61 years old.
Diffie was the first country star to go public with a coronavirus diagnosis, announcing in a statement Friday: “I am under the care of medical professionals and currently receiving treatment. My family and I are asking for privacy at this time. We want to remind the public and all my fans to be vigilant, cautious and careful during this pandemic.”
Joseph Logan Diffie was born Dec. 28, 1958, in Tulsa, Okla., and he began performing at age 14 in his aunt’s band. After with toying with the idea of becoming a doctor, he dropped out of medical school in the late ’70s and eventually launched his music career with the gospel group Higher Purpose and bluegrass band Special Edition. After moving to Nashville in 1986, he began working at the Gibson Guitar Corporation while also recording demos of his own songs in his home studio; some of those compositions would later be recorded by country stars like Billy Dean and Alabama. In 1990, Diffie was signed as a solo artist to Epic Records Nashville by Bob Montgomery, a songwriter and record producer known for working with Buddy Holly.
Over the course of his career, Diffie scored 35 Billboard Hot Country chart hits, including his debut single “Home,” “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock From the Sun,” “Pickup Man,” and “Bigger Than the Beatles,” all of which went to No. 1. “Home” also topped the country charts published by Radio & Records and the Gavin Report, making Diffie the first recording artist to achieve that feat.
In addition to these singles, Diffie made Billboard’s country charts with songs he co-wrote for Holly Dunn, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, and others. He won a Grammy in 1998 for Best Country Collaboration for “Same Old Train” (an all-star recording with Clint Black, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Pam Tillis, Randy Travis, Travis Tritt, and Dwight Yoakam); earned a Grammy nomination for his Mary Chapin Carpenter duet “Not Too Much to Ask”; and won an Academy of Country Music Award for 1993’s Vocal Event of the Year for “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” with George Jones, to whom he had often been vocally compared.
While Diffie had not cracked the country top 10 since 2001, he remained a favorite among younger country artists. Jason Aldean’s single “1994” was in part a tribute to Diffie, with lines like “1994, Joe Diffie comin’ out my radio,” and “Hey Joe, come on and teach us how to Diffie.” Chris Young’s “Raised on Country” also featured an homage to Diffie. As news of Diffie’s tragic passing broke Sunday, various country stars took to social media to mourn.
I’m so sad to learn that Joe Diffie has passed away due to complications from the Coronavirus. Joe was a good friend and touring partner with me in the 90’s. We had a lot of great times together, both onstage and… https://t.co/qtDXX4oXao
— Travis Tritt (@Travistritt) March 29, 2020
Just got word that Joe Diffie has passed away.
Sincere condolences to his family
It’s such a shock and such a loss for Country Music
Rest In Peace Joe
— Charlie Daniels (@CharlieDaniels) March 29, 2020
Rest In Peace Joe Diffie! You were one of the most iconic and distinct voices on country radio. You will be missed by so many. pic.twitter.com/gRRpLxhSWD
— Eli Young Band (@EliYoungBand) March 29, 2020
I knew this was bound to hit close to home. Today it did. I just heard the news of Joe Diffie’s passing. I am sick in my spirit because I can’t bear the thought of not hearing that voice for a while. He was a dear friend& understood me and my convictions. Full post on Facebook. pic.twitter.com/WgV52wEMkZ
— Darryl Worley (@darrylworley) March 29, 2020
2020… damn. RIP Pickup Man. So sad. We lost Joe Diffie
— Cole Swindell (@coleswindell) March 29, 2020
Joe Diffie man…. Our love for mullets made me feel connected to you in a special way. Rest easy brother
— morgan wallen (@MorganWallen) March 29, 2020
RIP to the great Joe Diffie . We became buds over the last couple of years . It’s always great getting to know the people you were a fan of as a kid. That was absolutely the case w JD. Joe died of Coronavirus complications pic.twitter.com/uBZ0hw9kYQ
— Bobby Bones (@mrBobbyBones) March 29, 2020
Diffie had reportedly been planning to release his first studio album in seven years, I Got This, though there is no update regarding that project.
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