Joe Diffie, the country star who dropped a string of popular radio hits in the '90s, has died at 61 due to coronavirus-related complications. Diffie had released a statement confirming he tested positive for the disease on Friday, with his publicist confirming he succumbed to the illness on Sunday.
Diffie was likely best known for his string of hits in the early '90s, including "Pickup Man," "Third Rock From the Sun," "John Deere Green," and "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)." His statement Friday noted that he and his family were seeking privacy while the singer sought care for the illness.
"I am under the care of medical professionals and currently receiving treatment. My family and I are asking for privacy at this time," Diffie's statement said. "We want to remind the public and all my fans to be vigilant, cautious and careful during this pandemic."
Diffie was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and moved to various states with his family, picking up some tricks and interests within traditional country music along the way. Along the way Diffie would play bars, worked in gospel and bluegrass groups like Higher Purpose and Special Edition according to Rolling Stone, and running a small recording studio alongside his father.
The singer's push into the country mainstream started in 1986 with what Rolling Stone describes as a "five-year plan" to break through into the business. He took a job with Gibson guitars, sang on numerous demos, and wrote music. Hank Thompson recorded the song "Love on the Rocks" penned by Diffie and he provided songwriting and backing vocal talents on Holly Dunn's "There Goes My Heart Again."
His hit streak of six Top Five singles in a row is still an accomplishment to marvel at, including his debut single "Home" which became first to reach the top charts in all three music trades at the time, Billboard, Gavin, and Radio & Records. Diffie was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1993 and followed that with his million-selling album Honky Tonk Attitude and its follow-up Third Rock From the Sun. He went on to earn a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration for "Same Old Train" with Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Emmylou Harris, and others.
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His most recent song, "As Long As There's a Bar," was released in July 2019 and had DNA from his previous hits within. He expanded upon his music philosophy with Rolling Stone at the time, noting that he keeps it as simple as possible.0comments
"I just like the songs themselves,” Diffie told the outlet. "I went that route — finding songs I really liked and that I related to. Really, it’s not any more complicated than that."