Each year, the band in heaven gains too many new members. Most recently, we lost Charley Pride, Joe Diffie, John Prine, and Kenny Rogers. Three of them we lost to COVID.
The term “living legend” does not come lightly and the following artists bear that name proudly and we hope they will for a long time to come.
Let’s take a look at the last living legends of country music.
10. David Allan Coe
Coe’s biggest hits are “Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile”, “The Ride”, “You Never Even Called Me by My Name”, “She Used To Love Me A Lot”, and “Longhaired Redneck”.
His biggest songs and a songwriter are Tanya Tucker’s “Would You Lay with Me” and Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job And Shove It”.
He broke out on the country scene during the outlaw country era and pulls inspiration from blues, rock, and country. His lyrics often include references to alcohol and drug use and is known for his unpredictability.
Coe still writes music and was featured in the Willie Nelson Museum. Coe recently battled COVID at 81 years old and on his 81st birthday it was reported that he was finally released from the hospital and had defeated the virus. He is recovering at home with hope to hitting the road again soon.
9. Vince Gill
He’s been called the most romantic singer in country music, and with that voice, we will definitely second that statement.
He made his country music debut with the country rock band Pure Prairie League in 1979 and his solo debut in 1984.
Gill has won 20 Grammy Awards, from 40 nominations, and several CMAs, and was inducted on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. More recently, he released his 20th studio album and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
8. Emmylou Harris
Harris has certainly made a name for herself in her 45+ year career!
She has 13 Grammys and has constituted herself as a legend due to her many roles she takes on such as bandleader, solo artist, singer-songwriter, backing vocalist, and duet partner.
She’s worked with countless artists over the years including John Prine, Mark Knopfler, Dolly Parton, John Denver, and Bob Dylan.
She continues to perform and tour regularly and is a proud supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Music Gives campaign.
7. Garth Brooks
This man is a legend for very many reasons. Not only is he an incredible country singer, he has broken countless records during his most recent world tour, which he has been on for the last two years.
He emerged on the country scene in 1984 and had quite the career. He released nine studio albums before retiring in 2001 to become a stay-at-home dad. He didn’t record again until 2009.
In 2005, he began a partial comeback, playing select shows and in 2009, he began a residency in Las Vegas that lasted until 2014. Later that year, he released a new album and began The Garth Brooks World Tour with his wife, Trisha Yearwood.
They were on the road for over three years straight and broke several ticket sales records.
6. Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Jr. began making a name for himself when he was just a teenager. He would cover his father’s music, but in the mid-1970s, he decided to go in his own direction.
He’s since become one of the most prominent names in the country music world and solidified himself as a superstar with his southern rock style music.
With hits like “Family Tradition,” “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” “High Notes” and “The Pressure Is On,” he had 30 straight Top Ten singles on the Billboard Country charts.
His other notable hits include “A Country Boy Can Survive” and “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.”
5. George Strait
He is called The King of Country Music, so of course he made this list!
Strait has a record 60 number one hits, and broke that record in 2009. It was previously held by Conway Twitty with 40.
Clearly, he is known for his illustrious music career, but he is also well-known for his touring career. He designed a 360-degree configuration and introduced festival-style tours. Basically, he is performing on the stage, which is in the middle of the audience, and fans are all around him, on every side. This way, more fans can attend each show.
He has retired from full-on touring, but has several two-date shows in Vegas each year.
4. Kris Kristofferson
Kristofferson left the Army to pursue music. He began struggling as a songwriter, so he took up a job with the National Guard to help pay the bills.
After Johnny Cash refused to listen to his demos time and time again, Kristofferson took matters into his own hands during a training run with the National Guard. He actually landed the helicopter on Cash’s front lawn in Hendersonville to give Cash a demo. Ultimately it worked, because Cash later invited Kristofferson on stage at a music festival and the rest is history!
In 2004, Kristofferson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He also helped form the country music supergroup The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. All four men are known for growing the outlaw country movement.
A successful songwriter, his songs have been covered by over 450 artists including Janis Joplin, Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jennings, Ray Price, and so many more.
He is a legend for so many different reasons! Take a listen to the song that started it all for Kristofferson.
3. Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton’s larger-than-life personality helped her become one of the most prominent names in country music.
That, and the combination of being an incredible singer-songwriter, made the world fall in love with her.
She has 41 Top Ten country albums, which is a record for any artist in any genre, and has 110 charted singles during the past 40 years.
She currently has 8 Grammy Awards, 2 Academy Award nominations, 10 CMAs, 7 ACMs, 3 AMAs, and is one of only seven women to ever win the coveted CMA for Entertainer of the Year.
She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and has composed over 3,000 songs. Her most famous song is probably “I Will Always Love You,” which was already a hit for her in 1974, but when Whitney Houston covered the tune, it’s popularity skyrocketed.
2. Loretta Lynn
The Coal Miner’s Daughter from Butcher Holler, Kentucky stole our hearts when she debuted in 1960.
Loretta Lynn has received several awards for her groundbreaking role in country music. She paved the way for female artists to follow with her unapologetic and brutally honest lyrics.
She is an extremely successful solo artist as well and as a duet partner. She and Conway Twitty produced numerous hits together. She is the most awarded female country music artist and is the only female to win the ACM Artist of the Decade award.
More recently, she has stayed out of the spotlight and hasn’t performed much because of stroke, followed by a broken hip. She’s on the mend and has promised fans she will be back, though!
1. Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson gained quite the popularity in the early 1960s when Patsy Cline recorded his song “Crazy”, which went on to become a massive hit.
He also wrote Billy Walker’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” and served as Ray Price’s bassist. He recorded his first solo album in 1962 and his career took off.
He took some time off in the 1970s, but returned more passionate than ever. He helped grow the outlaw country genre and even became an actor!
With hits like “Pancho and Lefty”, “Good Hearted Woman”, “Midnight Rider” and “If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time”, he solidified himself as a country legend by 1980.
He continues to perform and record music and is readying his 96th studio album, The Willie Nelson Family.
View this post on Instagram