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Country music legend Mel Tillis dies at 85

20 November 2017

The country legend died of suspected respiratory failure at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida, publicist Don Murry Grubbs said in a statement. The Country Music Hall of Famer had battled intestinal issues ever since he was hospitalized in 2016 after undergoing colon surgery, and he never fully recovered. "There will never be another Mel Tillis!".

Mel enjoyed decades of success, having released over 60 albums and dozens of top ten singles over the years.

Tillis wrote more than 1,000 songs, with around 600 of those being recorded by major artists.

Tributes from fellow country music stars poured in on social media, with musician and "The Voice" judge Blake Shelton describing Tillis' death as "a truly devastating loss".

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Additionally, Tillis had other hits such as Stateside, I Got the Hoss, Send Me Down to Tucson, Neon Rose, Sawmill and Midnight, Me and the Blues. He developed a speech impediment after a childhood bout of malaria, the Tennessean reported.

He joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed as a baker in Okinawa, where he formed a band called the Westerners.

In 2007, Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame by his daughter, singer Pam Tillis. Besides being a successful recording artist, Tillis performed at the Grand Ole Opry and made frequent television appearances, as well as playing small roles in movies such as Smokey and the Bandit II and The Cannonball Run. According to his website, his career launched in 1956 when Webb Pierce recorded a song written by Tillis. "The more I go onstage", he said, "and feel my independence and that power over audiences, the less I stutter".

What do you have to say to the family of Mel Tillis? Four years later, he received the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to country music during a White House ceremony.

Country music legend Mel Tillis dies at 85