Veteran country music star Joe Diffie has died, just two days after going public with his COVID-19 diagnosis.

The singer passed away on Sunday (29Mar20) due to complications related to the novel coronavirus, his publicist tells Rolling Stone. He was 61.

Diffie was the first country musician to reveal he had tested positive for COVID-19, sharing the news with fans in a note on Friday.

In the statement, he said, "I am under the care of medical professionals and currently receiving treatment.

"My family and I are asking for privacy at this time. We want to remind the public and all my fans to be vigilant, cautious and careful during this pandemic."

The Oklahoma native began his career as a songwriter, and scored his big break in 1988, when Hank Thompson recorded his track Love on the Rocks.

He went on to collaborate with Holly Dunn on There Goes My Heart Again in 1989, before landing his own record deal and releasing his debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads, in 1990.

He enjoyed his heyday in the 1990s, becoming known for hits like Home, Ships That Don't Come In, If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets), Third Rock from the Sun, Pickup Man, John Deere Green, and Bigger Than the Beatles, while he also penned singles for artists including Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina.

Diffie was inducted into the iconic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee in 1993, and in 1998, won the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for the star-studded Same Old Train, a tune which also featured country legends Merle Haggard, Clint Black, and Emmylou Harris.

He was famously honoured in Jason Aldean's 2013 single, titled 1994, in which he saluted Diffie by namechecking a number of his songs.

Fellow music veteran Travis Tritt was among the first to pay tribute to Diffie after the news of his death emerged on Sunday, taking to Twitter and writing, "Joe was a friend and touring partner with me in the 90’s (sic). This comes as a huge shock to all of us in the country music community. Deepest condolences to Joe’s family, friends and fans."

"Just got word that Joe Diffie has passed away," tweeted Charlie Daniels. "Sincere condolences to his family. It’s such a shock and such a loss for Country Music. Rest In Peace Joe".

And Trace Adkins mourned, "Oh my God. One of the all-time GREAT vocalists. Joe Diffie was my friend. RIP, buddy."

Other early tributes have also come from the Eli Young Band, Granger Smith, and Cole Swindell.

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