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Country singer dies of virus complications

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This Aug. 22, 2018 file photo shows Joe Diffie at the 12th annual ACM Honors in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Al Wagner/Invision/AP, File) 

Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles such as Home and Pick-up Man, has died aged 61 after testing positive for COVID-19.

Diffie on Friday announced he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis.

Diffie's publicist Scott Adkins said the singer died Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, due to complications from the virus.

Diffie, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years.

His hits included Honky Tonk Attitude, Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die), Bigger Than the Beatles and If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).

His mid-90s albums Honky Tonk Attitude and Third Rock From the Sun went platinum.

Eighteen of Diffie's singles landed in the top 10 on the country charts, with five going No.1.

Diffie shared in a Grammy award for best country collaboration for the song Same Old Train with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and others.

His last solo album was 2010's The Bluegrass Album: Homecoming.

"Joe was a real true honky tonk hero to every country artist alive today," singer John Rich said in a statement.

"No one sang our music better than he did, and to see his life and artistry cut short is beyond tragic. He was loved, cherished and respected by all of country music and beyond."

Deanna Carter said she was "shell-shocked" by the news and had hoped to perform again with Diffie this year.

"He was a powerhouse that stopped people in their tracks, both on and off stage," she said.

Diffie is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from four marriages.

© AP 2020