Music

Country Singers, Songwriters and Personalities We've Lost in 2020

Al Wagner/Invision/AP, File, AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File and Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP, File

Numerous country music artists and country-adjacent personalities have passed away in 2020. Talents we've lost range from mainstream stars like Kenny Rogers to the songwriters behind some of your favorite hits.

Here's a quick series of tributes to more than 30 superstars, side musicians and wordsmiths we've lost during the strangest of years.

Chris Darrow (July 30, 1944 - January 15, 2020)

Appearances on two seminal albums, 1968's Rare Junk and 1970's Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy, highlight this country-rock influencer's stint with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Eddie Setser (1942 - January 17, 2020)

After impacting the history of soul music with songs cut by James Brown and others, Setser became the Nashville songwriter behind such co-writes as the Willie Nelson and Ray Charles hit "Seven Spanish Angels."

David Olney (March 23, 1948 - January 18, 2020)

Olney, a folk and Americana great, died of an apparent heart attack while performing with Scott Miller during the 30A Songwriter Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

Paul English (November 6, 1932 - February 11, 2020)

Country music fans lost Willie Nelson's drummer and close friend way back when this year felt like it might unfold with some sense of normalcy.

Lindsey Lagestee (May 17, 1994 - Feb. 17, 2020)

Lagestee, a 25-year-old pharmacist and the lead singer of Dixie Crush, was struck by a car on Valentine's Day right before a scheduled gig in Chicago. She passed away three days later.

Kenny Rogers (August 21, 1938 - March 20, 2020)

Rogers, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, made a bigger mark on popular culture than anyone else on this list. His version of "The Gambler" alone makes his voice and storytelling talent synonymous with country music to fans of a certain age.

Gary McSpadden (January 26, 1943 - April 15, 2020)

Former Oak Ridge Boys member Gary McSpadden also performed with a who's-who of Southern gospel acts and hosted PTL Today after Jim Bakker's 1987 resignation.

Sage Michael Warren (September 6, 1998 - May 18, 2020)

The 21-year-old son of country songwriter Brad Warren died in May. He's one of several relatives of country singers or songwriters to pass away this year, with that list including Hank Williams Jr.'s daughter Katherine Williams-Dunning, Kane Brown's grandfather Steve Allen Brown and Reba McEntire's mother, Jacqueline Smith.

Jan Howard (March 13, 1929 - March 28, 2020)

A fixture of the Grand Ole Opry, Howard's solo offerings include two classic 1966 singles: "Evil on Your Mind" and "Bad Seed." She later scored a No. 1 hit with the Bill Anderson duet "For Loving You."

Joe Diffie (December 28, 1958 - March 29, 2020)

One of the great country stars of the '90s remains one of Nashville's more visible victims of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. He scored five No. 1 hits in his legendary career: "Home", "If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)", "Third Rock from the Sun", "Pickup Man" and "Bigger Than the Beatles."

John Prine (October 10, 1946 - April 7, 2020)

Prine's knack over the years for both making us laugh and making us think made him a beloved songwriter in many circles, including the global Americana scene.

Harold Reid (August 21, 1939 - April 24, 2020)

The beloved bass singer of superstar quartet The Statler Brothers, a group Harold co-founded with his brother Don Reid, lost a long battle with kidney failure. His booming voice suited both country hits and Southern gospel standards.

John Lancaster (May 1, 1977 - May 1, 2020)

John Lancaster, the longtime keyboardist for country music star Gary Allan, passed away on Friday, May 1, which happened to be his 43rd birthday.

Per Taste of Country, the musician had been hospitalized for about a week and had recently gone into hospice care for an unspecified illness.

Cady Groves (July 30, 1989 - May 2, 2020)

Groves died of natural causes at age 30, cutting short a promising career as a pop and country singer-songwriter. Standout examples of her work include the song "This Little Girl" and posthumous studio album Bless My Heart.

Benny Garcia (May 7, 1956 - May 9, 2020)

This veteran guitar tech and musician, whose friendship with Vince Gill dated back to both men's Oklahoma upbringings, died from pancreatic cancer.

Jimmy Capps (May 25, 1939 - June 1, 2020)

Capps, a beloved Grand Ole Opry house musician, died on June 1. Capps' run as one of Nashville's best guitar pickers began in 1958 when he joined sibling duo the Louvin Brothers. His credits as a session guitarist include, but are hardly limited to, Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler," George Strait's "Amarillo By Morning" and Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man."

Larry Johnson (1950 or 1951 - June 12, 2020) and Craig Martin (1967 or 1968 - July 11, 2020)

Johnson and Martin's names will be forever linked as the co-writers of Tim McGraw's breakthrough No. 1 single, "Don't Take the Girl."

Charlie Daniels (October 28, 1936 - July 6, 2020)

From session work for Bob Dylan and others in the '60s to the crossover success of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" in the '70s, Daniels had a long and varied career. Later in life, he became as known for his patriotic stances on social media as a live show that never lost a step.

Jamie Oldaker (September 5, 1951 - July 16, 2020)

Oldaker was the original drummer of country-rockers The Tractors and a backing musician for Eric Clapton, Bob Seger and other classic rock legends.

Felix McTeigue (1971 or 1972  - July 24, 2020)

News broke on Aug. 17 that Edward "Felix" McTeigue, one of the songwriters behind Florida Georgia Line's airplay hit "Anything Goes" and Lori McKenna's Grammy award-nominated "Wreck You," passed away on July 24 following complications from surgery.

Bill Mack (June 4, 1929 - July 31, 2020)

Mack wrote and first recorded future LeAnn Rimes hit "Blue" in the '50s for Starday Records. He went on to become a beloved syndicated radio DJ.

Justin Townes Earle (January 4, 1982 - August 20, 2020)

The son of Steve Earle and namesake of iconic Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt was a great performer and wordsmith in his own right. His final album, 2019's The Saint of Lost Causes, became his highest-ranking entry on Billboard's all-genre Top 200.

Troy Jones (December 30, 1955 -  September 11, 2020)

Jones died in a tragic accident at home after a live electrical current touched his boat dock. His songwriting credits include two co-writes that became No. 1 hits for Billy Currington: "People Are Crazy" and "Pretty Good at Drinkin' Beer."

Roy Head (January 9, 1941 - September 21, 2020)

Head, the rock and country singer-songwriter whose 1965 hit "Treat Her Right" spread the Houston sound far and wide, was also the father of The Voice winner Sundance Head.

W.S. "Fluke" Holland (April 22, 1935 - September 23, 2020)

Johnny Cash's touring drummer from 1960 until Cash's 1997 retirement from live performances died in late September after a short illness. Before joining Cash's band, Holland performed with Carl Perkins and other Sun Records stars.

William E. ("Bill") McEuen (1941 - September 24, 2020)

The younger brother of John McEuen was a songwriter, graphic artist and producer for a group John co-founded, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Bill's production credits also include comedy albums for Steve Martin.

Mac Davis (January 21, 1942 - September 29, 2020)

Davis wore two hats: one as the pop songwriter behind Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto" and the other as a heartthrob country singer and the ACM's 1974 Entertainer Of The Year.

Ray Pennington (December 22, 1933 - October 7, 2020)

Ray Pennington, a veteran of Nashville's country music community and writer of Waylon Jennings hit "I'm a Ramblin' Man," died  in a house fire at his rural Tennessee residence.

Johnny Bush (February 17, 1935 - October 16, 2020)

This Texas music legend is best known as the songwriter of Willie Nelson hit "Whiskey River." Though issues with his voice slowed down his solo career's momentum in the '70s, Bush enjoyed a resurgence in the '80s that continued until his passing.

Margie Bowes (March 18, 1941 - October 22, 2020)

Bowes had a run of commercial success in the '50s and '60s. The North Carolina native's five Top 40 country hits between 1959 and 1964 included "Poor Old Heartsick Me" and "My Love and Little Me."

Jerry Jeff Walker (March 16, 1942 - October 23, 2020)

Walker, the Austin, Texas singer-songwriter behind "Mr. Bojangles," will forever be remembered for such classic releases as his 1973 live album Viva Terlingua.

J.T. Corenflos (November 6, 1963 - October 24, 2020)

Corenflos began his career as a guitarist backing the likes of Jean Shepard and Joe Stampley on stage before becoming the studio wiz heard on albums by Tanya Tucker, Joe Nichols and others.

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Billy Joe Shaver (August 16, 1939 - October 28, 2020)

A year during which we lost so many great songwriters got even gloomier after Shaver's passing. The Corsicana, Texas native left behind such lyrical masterpieces as "Old Five and Dimers Like Me" and "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)." To give you an idea of the "Wacko from Waco's" impact on American popular culture, he wrote most of the songs on Waylon Jennings' outlaw country benchmark Honky Tonk Heroes (1973) and appeared on the silver screen along with his friend Robert Duvall in The Apostle (1996).

Doug Supernaw (September 26, 1960 - November 13, 2020)

Country singer Doug Supernaw died on Nov. 13 following a battle with cancer. According to a press release posted to Supernaw's Facebook page, the "I Don't Call Him Daddy" singer "passed away peacefully" at his Texas home.

His passing came less than a month after Supernaw's wife shared news on Facebook that the country singer had been placed under hospice care.

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Country Singers, Songwriters and Personalities We've Lost in 2020