Joe Diffie, one of the most celebrated country artists of the 1990s, died Sunday from complications of the coronavirus, his publicist confirmed to PEOPLE. He was 61.
Two days before his death, the Grammy-winning artist said he tested positive for the virus.
“I am under the care of medical professionals and currently receiving treatment after testing positive for coronavirus,” he wrote on social media. “We want to remind the public and all my fans to be vigilant, cautious and careful during this pandemic.”
Diffie, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native, became a household name in country music with more than 20 Top 10 hits and 13 albums.
The country hitmaker had five singles reach No. 1 on the charts, including his major hits “Home,” “Bigger Than the Beatles,” If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets,” “Third Rock From the Sun” and “Pickup Man.” His last top 10 hit was in 2001, according to NBC News.
Diffie, who was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 25 years and an Oklahoma Hall of Famer, wrote for other country artists like Tim McGraw and was notably name-checked in Jason Aldean‘s 2013 single “1994” and Chris Young‘s 2019 single “Raised on Country.”
After news of Diffie’s death, many singers expressed their condolences on social media.
Aldean wrote, “Man what a week Kenny Rogers and now @officialjoediffie. This guy was an amazing singer and an even greater person. Such a sad week for the country music world. Joe was always so much fun to be around and I will never forget our Panama City show with @tylerfarr and @therealtracylawrence 😂…We will miss u my friend. Thanks for teaching us how to “Diffie”. #1994 ✌🏼”
“I used to drive back and forth from Texas to TN listening to nothing but @officialjoediffie songs… I was lucky to get to know him… #RIP,” wrote country singer Chris Young on Instagram.
Travis Tritt, who was a “good friend and touring partner” of Diffie’s, shared several photos of the pair together on Instagram.
“We had a lot of great times together, both onstage and offstage. This comes as a huge shock to all of us in the country music community who loved Joe and his talent. Deepest condolences to Joe’s family, friends and fans,” Tritt wrote.
Luke Combs also shared a tribute to Diffie on Instagram, posting a recent photo of the two together.
“Damn… this seems like yesterday, can’t believe you’re gone. Rest In Peace @officialjoediffie you were a legend,” he wrote.
Country radio personality Bobby Bones shared his reaction on Twitter.
“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,” he said.
Cole Swindell also paid tribute, writing “2020…damn. RIP Pickup Man. So Sad. We lost Joe Diffie.”
Added Morgan Wallen, “Joe Diffie man…. Our love for mullets made me feel connected to you in a special way. Rest easy brother.”
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