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Days after announcing he had tested positive for the coronavirus, Grammy-winning country singer Joe Diffie died on Sunday, his family announced on social media.
Diffie, 61, is one of the highest-profile celebrities to die after testing positive for COVID-19. Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally died last week in a Sarasota hospital following complications related to the coronavirus.
An Oklahoma native, Diffie was a fixture on ’90s-country radio, scoring some of the era’s defining hits: Pickup Man, Third Rock From the Sun, Home, John Deere Green, If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets) and Bigger Than the Beatles, to name a few.
In 1999 he won a Grammy Award for the single Same Old Train, a collaboration with artists including Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs and more. Before that, he won the Country Music Association’s Vocal Event of the Year trophy for his work on George Jones’ I Don’t Need No Rockin’ Chair.
Diffie’s songs, full of humor and humanity, became such a distinct part of country music’s ’90s boom that younger artists like Jason Aldean (1994) and Chris Young (Raised On Country) name-dropped Diffie in their lyrics.
“Pickup Man is a classic,” Young told the Tampa Bay Times last fall. “It’s going to be tough to find anyone who doesn’t know the words to that song. Is It Cold in Here, Ships That Don’t Come In — you put that on in any bar right now in Nashville, everybody’s going to sing along with them. These guys were staples in that time period. Obviously, you go to the guys that are without-a-doubts, like George Strait and Alan Jackson. Then when you get to somebody else that a lot of people reference, that just shows how enduring his music is.”
In recent weeks, Diffie had commented on the coronavirus on social media. On March 11, he posted a photo of crafting, out-of-school children at his house, saying he “apparently homeschooled 13 kids today.”
On March 18, he posted about a run of concert cancellations caused by the coronavirus. He was scheduled to play the Dallas Bull in Tampa on May 15.
“I just want to say to all the fans, the show cancellations are not my idea of a good time,” he wrote. “Promoters, venues etc are postponing these events, as expected with everything going on. These shows that are postponed are affecting all of us musicians and our bands, crews, drivers, etc. Please pray for all of us and hope we can get america back on track and back to normal.”
On Friday, he Instagrammed that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“We want to remind the public and all my fans to be vigilant, cautious and careful during this pandemic,” he wrote.
On Sunday, his wife Tara took over his Instagram account, posting a screenshot of the announcement on his Facebook page.
“It’s with a sad heart that i have to post this,” she wrote.
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