Country singer Joe Diffie passed away March 29, 2020, due to complications from the coronavirus. Photo: Crystal K. Martel

Joe Diffie dies from complications of coronavirus, country artists pay tribute 

Country singer Joe Diffie died in Nashville on Sunday from complications of Covid-19. He was 61.

Diffie’s spokesperson confirmed the news in a statement, which didn’t elaborate other than a request for privacy for Diffie’s family. 

The country veteran’s 1990 debut, “A Thousand Winding Roads,” spawned the No. 1 hits, “Home” and “If You Want Me To.”

Diffie’s career would include 13 studio albums and 38 singles, with his 1993 album, “Honky Tonk Attitude” and 1994’s ‘Third Rock from the Sun” selling more than a million copies each. In 1998, he won a Grammy Award for best country collaboration with vocals for “Same Old Train” with Marty Stuart. 

In 2019, Diffie released a vinyl album called “Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie.”

His influence was noted by current country stars including Jason Aldean, who name-dropped Diffie in the 2012 song, “1994” (co-written by Thomas Rhett).

Poison frontman Bret Michaels was one of the first to acknowledge Diffie’s passing on social media, posting a note that referenced their live dates together for a series of shows last year. 

Other musicians shared their condolences online as well:

"What a sad weekend for our country music and Grand Ole Opry families with the passing of Jan Howard and now Joe Diffie. Joe was a great singer...his record of "Ships That Don't Come In" is one of my all-time favorite performances. I always knew when I introduced him at the Opry that the fans were about to be well entertained. Joe will certainly be missed."
–Bill Anderson

"Beyond sadness. Beyond a loss for words. My thoughts and prayers for his family and fans."
–Billy Ray Cyrus

"We are devastated to hear about the passing of Joe Diffie today. We met Joe and became friends with him right after his first hits in the early 1990s. We will miss him so much and are sending our prayers to his family."
–David Bellamy, Bellamy Brothers 

"I'm heartbroken to hear that my friend, Joe Diffie, has passed at just 61. I had so much admiration for Joe. He was a wonderful friend and a super talented singer and songwriter. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to name some of my favorite younger country singers and over the years, Joe Diffie was always one on the top of the list. Whenever we worked a show together, I always wanted to stand on the side and listen. We have lost one of the best country singers that ever lived."
–Gene Watson

“The minute I heard “Pickup Man,” I thought, what a perfect song for him! He was a good ole boy’, all around kinda guy. He was like tv’s Tim Allen from ‘Home Improvement.’ Relatable and kind. Country music lost one of the good guys today.”
–Naomi Judd

“We just lost one of the best singers this town has ever known. My thoughts and prayers are with Joe Diffie’s family.”
–Phil Vassar 

"Sometimes I hear bad news, and over and over again in that cold empty space, I think if I wait a minute or two, the news will change, but it's final. Joe Diffie, one of our best singers and my buddy, is gone. We are the same age, so it's very scary. I will miss his voice, his laughter, his songs. My thoughts go out to his entire family. I'll love you always Joe and am so grateful you were in my life."
–Tanya Tucker

"I’m heartbroken and in shock just like all of you over this awful news. Joe Diffie possessed one of the most incredible pure country voices on the planet, and he was always so much fun to be around. My prayers are with his family at this sad time. Rest In Peace ol’ pal."
–Steve Wariner

“My heart goes out to Joe’s family and Tara in this difficult time. In the past couple of years, I got to know Joe and Tara and I was really looking forward to visiting with them at an upcoming show I was playing with Blake (Shelton), but unfortunately the rest of our tour got cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreaks. Coincidentally, a month ago Blake had us learn Joe’s hit “If the Devil Danced in Empty Pockets” and we had been doing it every day in soundcheck. We are all big fans of his and his music will live on through so many friends and fans!”
–Jenee Fleenor

“When you think of 90’s country, you think Joe Diffie. It was such an honor to have Joe included in the lineup of my 2nd annual “90’s Night” in Nashville back in March of 2018. His music will continue to impact generations to come in ways that only a few can.” 
–Adam Sanders

"I grew up listening to Joe Diffie. He was a staple in 90’s country music. His voice and music will live on forever. My prayers go out to the Diffie family."
–Lewis Brice

"Joe Diffie was a true singer’s singer! His passing is heartbreaking to say the least... I was about 20 years old when Joe sent me a MySpace message complimenting my music. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I received it. As a struggling singer in Nashville, his words alone inspired me enough to stay at it! I am beside myself with this news and really have no more words.”
–Billy Droze

“This is truly heartbreaking. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Diffie family. Joe Diffie’s music has impacted so many of our careers. Every time I see a jukebox I will forever see and hear Joe Diffie. He will be forever missed."
–Lucas Hoge

“Joe Diffie was a classic country artist and songwriter. His voice oozed American country tones and he will truly be missed not just in our country, but around the world too.”
–Taylor Hicks

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  
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