2016 was an unusually brutal year in terms of celebrity deaths…and country music was not immune (What does it say that we feel like we need a list of all the talent we lost this year? And this doesn’t even include the studio musicians, band members and professional songwriters!).
Here’s our 2016 “In Memoriam” of the country stars who are now singing with the angels.
Merle Haggard – One of the pioneers of “The Bakersfield Sound,” “The Hag” had cancelled a show in Riverside in late 2015, due to health issues….perhaps a foreboding of the double pneumonia he suffered in the spring, eventually leading to his passing on his 79th birthday on April 6th.
Red Simpson – Known for his “trucking songs,” Red Simpson was a mainstay in the Bakersfield country scene, holding a weekly residency at Trout’s in Oildale, just north of Bako, almost right up until his death on January 8th.
Joey Feek of Joey + Rory – Just months after giving birth to their daughter Indiana, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Despite surgery, treatment, and the love, prayers, and good thoughts from her husband Rory, her family and friends, and fans from all over the world, Joey’s cancer was tragically determined terminal, and she left this world on March 4th, just weeks after Indy’s second birthday.
Joey’s beautiful legacy lives on in Rory’s loving blog, and in the movie he made for her on what would have been their 14th anniversary. “To Joey: With Love” is now available on DVD.
Holly Dunn – The ACM’s Top Female Vocalist of 1986 and the CMA’s 1987 Horizon Award winner released her final album in 2003, before turning her focus to her other passion: art. She passed away on November 14th from ovarian cancer.
Guy Clark – This prolific songwriter had his songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, Rodney Crowell, as well as Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson (among others), but he’s probably best known for being the writer behind Jerry Jeff Walker‘s “L.A. Freeway.”
He earned a Grammy in 2014 for Best Folk Album (for My Favorite Picture of You).
Guy succumbed to lymphoma on May 17th.
Ralph Stanley – Half of the Stanley Brothers, and leader of the Clinch Mountain Boys, as well as member of the Grand Ole Opry and the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor, banjo player Dr. Stanley was also featured on Josh Turner‘s 2003 hit, “Me and God.”
He passed away from skin cancer on June 23rd.
Jean Shepard – The third female artist to join the Grand Ole Opry, and the first to be a woman to be a member for sixty consecutive years, honky tonk singer-songwriter and Country Music Hall of Famel Member, Jean Shepard died from Parkinson’s Disease on September 25th.
Leon Russell – His music touched on many different genres, blues, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll, but under the pseudonym Hank Wilson, he released a couple albums of honky tonk, bluegrass, and country standards. His duet with Willie Nelson, “Heartbreak Hotel,” went to the top of the charts.