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Earl Thomas Conley, '80s Country Hitmaker and 'Holding Her and Loving You' Singer, Dies at 77

Earl Thomas Conley, the '80s country music star and singer-songwriter known for his hits "Holding Her and Loving You," "Once in a Blue Moon," "What I'd Say," "Brotherly Love" ( a duet with Keith Whitley), "I Can't Win For Losin' You," and more,  passed away at the age of 77 on Wednesday, April 10.

The Tennessean reports that Conley had a condition similar to dementia and had been in hospice care for the past several months.

"He just kept losing ground," his brother, Fred Conley told The Tennessean. "I'm brokenhearted."

Blake Shelton, a longtime friend of Conley's, shared the news on Twitter.

"My heart is absolutely destroyed today," Shelton wrote. "I'm sad to report that Earl Thomas Conley passed away very early this morning. Earl was my all time favorite singer, hero and my friend. Prayers to his family. We will all miss you deeply my brother. Now go rest..."

A post on Conley's official Facebook page also shared the news of the singer's death.

"We are with great sadness and regret informing the loyal Fans and Friends of Earl Thomas Conley that Earl passed away early this morning," the post reads. "Earl has been in poor health for a few years now. Please know that he loved and appreciated each and every one of you! He always said that YOU are the best fans ever! He is now resting peacefully!"

Born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1941, Conley's musical career began while he was serving in the U.S. Army. He began performing Christian music with a trio and decided to pursue music as a career. Conley started traveling to Nashville in 1968 and eventually moved to Huntsville, Ala., where he continued to commute to Music City. While working at a steel mill in Huntsville, Conley met record producer Nelson Larkin, who helped him sign to an independent record label. While none of his early songs were hits, Conley found success as a songwriter, penning songs for Conway Twitty and Mel Street.

Conley moved to Nashville and began writing for Larkin's publishing house. He signed a recording contract with Warner Bros.  Records. The early '80s saw Conley rise to fame with songs like "Holding Her and Loving You," "Right From the Start," "Somewhere Between Right and Wrong" and more of Conley's 18 No. 1 hit country songs on the Billboard charts.

This is a developing story and Wide Open Country will update as more information becomes available. 

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Earl Thomas Conley, '80s Country Hitmaker and 'Holding Her and Loving You' Singer, Dies at 77