Nineties country legend Joe Diffie has passed away from complications related to the coronavirus. He was 61.
Rolling Stone reports:
Joe Diffie, a consistent country-music hitmaker throughout the Nineties, died Sunday due to complications related to COVID-19. His publicist confirmed the death to Rolling Stone. Diffie was 61.
With a traditional-leaning voice that drew comparisons to George Jones, Diffie populated his records with honky-tonk ballads and lighthearted novelty tunes, earning the Oklahoma native five Number One singles in the first half of the Nineties. These began with his debut release, the deeply moving “Home,” followed by “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock From the Sun,” “Pickup Man,” and “Bigger Than the Beatles.” In all, Diffie charted 18 Top Ten singles, with the majority reaching the Top Five, including the 1993 radio staples “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” and “John Deere Green.”
Signed to Epic Records, Diffie released his debut LP, A Thousand Winding Roads, in 1990. The album produced his inaugural hit, “Home,” which set a record by becoming the first debut single to reach the top of the country charts on all three trade publications at the time: Billboard, Gavin, and Radio & Records. Opening for acts including George Strait and Steve Wariner, Diffie continued his hit streak with six Top Five singles in a row, one of which, 1992’s somber “Ships That Don’t Come In,” would likely have gone to Number One but for its use of the word “bitch” in the lyrics.
In 1993, the year he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, Diffie released the platinum-selling LP Honky-Tonk Attitude, followed by 1994’s Third Rock From the Sun, which was also certified platinum. Following moves to Monument and Broken Bow Records, Diffie signed with the Rounder label, returning to his bluegrass roots with Homecoming. In 1998, he won a Grammy award for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for the all-star recording “Same Old Train” with Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Emmylou Harris, and more.
Representative of his workingman persona, Diffie took a no-nonsense approach to his craft. “I just like the songs themselves,” he told Rolling Stone in 2019. “Finding songs I really liked and that I related to. Really, it’s not any more complicated than that.
The music of Joe Diffie is dear to the heart of all of us country music fans who fell in love with the genre during the nineties boom. He had a lot of novelty songs which were often quite entertaining. “Good Brown Gravy” was always a personal favorite of mine.
But his ballads were a whole another level. “A Night to Remember” is my favorite thing he ever recorded, but he had so many other beautiful ones: “Home,” “Is it Cold in Here,” “Ships That Don’t Come In,” “In My Own Backyard,” “That Road Not Taken.” Just to name a few.
He was also an accomplished songwriter, most notably penning hits for Holly Dunn (“There Goes My Heart Again”) and Jo Dee Messina (“My Give a Damn’s Busted.”)
What a tremendous loss.