PITTSBURGH (CBS) — Country music legend Mel Tillis, whose career spanned six decades and included dozens of Top 10 singles, died early Sunday at a Florida hospital after a long illness. He was 85.
The Country Music Hall of Fame member had battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered, his publicist said. The suspected cause of death was respiratory failure.
He leaves behind six children, including country music artist Pam Tillis.
“The Tillis family asks for your prayers and will soon release more information regarding funeral services in Florida and Nashville,” said Tillis’ publicist Don Murry Grubbs.
Tillis was born in Tampa on August 8, 1932. His career included recording six number one hits, including “I Ain’t Never,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” “Southern Rains,” “Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer,” and “I Believe In You.”
He was named the Country Music Association’s coveted Entertainer of the Year, and was elected a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He wrote over 1,000 songs, 600 of which were recorded by major artists including Kenny Rogers, George Strait, and Ricky Skaggs.
In February of 2012 President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.
Dallas-Fort Worth radio host Mark “Hawkeye” Louis from KSCS said Tillis’ career was strongest in the 1970s.
“He transcended country music,” Louis said. “Everybody outside country music knew him also.”