20 Country Stars The World Lost Too Soon

(First) Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images / (Second) Andrew Putler / Redferns / Getty Images / (Third) Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images (Fourth) John Shearer / Getty Images for ACM

We Lost These 20 Country Stars Far Too Soon, But Their Legacies Live On Through Their Songs

There are far too many country stars the world lost too soon. Of course, the loss of any country artist feels “too soon” to their fans, no matter their age or the circumstances.

Unfortunately, some country artists have died tragically, or at a younger than “expected” age. Despite this, their legacies live on through their songs and the new generations of artists they inspire.

In this list, we’re pausing to remember 20 country stars who we lost far too soon. They’re all so dearly missed…

Jimmie Rodgers – Died At Age 35

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Jimmie Rodgers
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Today, many refer to Jimmie Rodgers as “The Father of Country Music.” He served as the voice behind some of the earliest country songs, including “The Singing Brakeman” and “America’s Blue Yodeler.”

Rodgers was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1924 when he was 27 years old. The disease affected his ability to perform, but he continued the best he could.

His health kept declining, and took a serious turn for the worst while in New York City for a recording session. He passed away on May 25, 1933 at the age of 35.

Hank Williams – Died At Age 29

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Hank Williams
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Hank Williams is arguably the biggest legend in country music history. His songs such as “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I Saw the Light,” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” have influenced multiple generations of country artists who’ve followed in his footsteps.

Williams created all of his iconic songs in a shockingly short time. He died on January 1, 1923 at the age of 29.

The original autopsy performed on Williams concluded he died of a heart attack. Colin Escott, the author of Hank Williams: The Biography, concluded Williams’ cause of death was heart failure resulting from a combined use of alcohol, morphine, and chloral hydrate (a sedative used to treat insomnia).

Patsy Cline – Died At Age 30

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Patsy Cline
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Patsy Cline was a pioneer for all female country artists who came after. She established her legacy through songs such as “Crazy,” “She’s Got You,” and “I Fall to Pieces.” These, and many of Cline’s other tracks, are considered to be some of the greatest country songs ever made.

On March 5, 1963, a plane carrying Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins crashed near Camden, Tennessee. All three performers and the plane’s pilot, Randy Hughes, were killed in the crash. Cline was only 30 years old.

Elvis Presley – Died At Age 42

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Elvis Presley
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Elvis Presley was not a country star by definition. But his music crossed genres, and he had several country hits.

Many of today’s country stars cite Presley as one of their strongest influences. This proves how much of an impact he had on the genre.

The world was devastated when Presley died on August 16, 1977. He was only 42 years old.

A PEOPLE article cites “preliminary autopsy findings,” which concluded Presley’s cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia.”

Marty Robbins – Died At Age 57

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Marty Robbins
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Marty Robbins left behind an extensive catalog of extraordinary songs. Those songs included “El Paso,” “A White Sport Coat,” and “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife.”

On top of being a country singer and songwriter, Robbins was also an actor and race car driver.

Robbins developed cardiovascular disease at an early age. He suffered several heart attacks, with his third occurring on December 2, 1982. He underwent quadruple coronary bypass surgery shortly after.

Unfortunately, Robbins did not recover. He passed away six days later, on December 8, 1982 at the age of 57.

Keith Whitley – Died At Age 34

Artists We Lost Too Soon - Keith Whitley
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Keith Whitley quickly became one of country music’s leading stars of the 1980s. He scored #1 hits with songs such as “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “When You Say Nothing at All,” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain.”

Whitley died just one year after he released those songs. On May 9, 1989, his brother-in-law Lane Palmer found him unresponsive on his bed. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at the age of 34.

A report from the Lexington Herald-Leader stated that Whitley’s cause of death was ruled to be acute ethanolism, or alcohol poisoning.

Dottie West – Died At Age 58

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Dottie West
Harry Langdon / Contributor / Getty Images

Dottie West served as a trailblazer for female artists in country music. Her songs such as “Here Comes My Baby,” “Paper Mansions,” and “Rings of Gold,” are considered to be timeless classics.

On August 30, 1991, West was running late to her show at the Grand Ole Opry. Her car stalled, so she got her neighbor, George Thackston, to give her a ride.

Thackston was speeding to try and get West to the Opry on time. But as he sped down the road, he lost control, and crashed into the central divider while attempting to exit off of the highway.

West didn’t appear to be injured at first. But it turns out, she had a ruptured spleen and a lacerated liver. She died on September 4, 1991 while undergoing her third surgery after the accident. West was only 58 years old.

Roger Miller – Died At Age 56

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Roger Miller
Paul Natkin / Contributor / Getty Images

Roger Miller was known for his songs such as “King of the Road,” “Dang Me,” and “England Swings.” He also played Alan-a-Dale, the narrator in Disney’s 1973 Robin Hood film. He performed several of the movie’s songs, including the catchy “Oo-De-Lally.”

Miller was a heavy smoker. He even acknowledged this in his song “Dad Blame Anything a Man Can’t Quit.” He eventually developed lung and throat cancer.

A tumor grew under Miller’s vocal cords, and he died on October 25, 1992, not long after the tumor was discovered. He was only 56 at the time of his death.

Conway Twitty – Died At Age 59

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Conway Twitty
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Few figures loom larger over country music than Conway Twitty. He released an endless string of hits, including songs such as “Hello Darlin’,” “Slow Hand,” and “I’d Love to Lay You Down.”

Twitty earned a total of 40 chart-topping hits. The feat is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that Twitty didn’t live to see his 60th birthday.

Twitty passed away on June 4, 1993 at the age of 59. He previously became ill while performing in Branson, Missouri, and collapsed on his bus.

Hospital officials told the press that Twitty died after a blood vessel in his stomach ruptured.

Tammy Wynette – Died At Age 55

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Tammy Wynette
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Tammy Wynette came to be known as “The First Lady of Country Music” during her lifetime. She earned this title after releasing impactful songs such as “Stand by Your Man,” “‘Til I Can Make It on My Own,” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”

Wynette dealt with health issues throughout her life. She passed away in her sleep on April 6, 1998 at the age of 55.

Initially, it was said Wynette died after developing a blood clot in her lungs. However, her body was exhumed in 1999 and an autopsy was performed. That autopsy concluded that Wynette died as the result of heart failure.

Waylon Jennings – Died At Age 64

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Waylon Jennings
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Waylon Jennings embodied the outlaw country spirit in his many hit songs. From “I’ve Always Been Crazy,” to “I’m Ramblin’ Man,” to “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” Jennings wrote and recorded a number of iconic tracks.

It’s sad to think of all the music we missed out on, since Jennings passed away at the age of 64. He died in his sleep on February 13, 2002 due to complications from diabetes. 

Chris LeDoux – Died At Age 56

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Chris LeDoux
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On top of being a country star, Chris LeDoux was a rodeo champion. His music and lifestyle influenced a number of other artists, most notably Garth Brooks.

LeDoux was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver disease, in August 2000. He received a liver transplant two months later.

Then in 2004, LeDoux was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a type of cancer that forms in the bile ducts. He passed away on March 9, 2005 at the age of 56.

Mindy McCready – Died At Age 37

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Mind McCready
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Mindy McCready will forever be remembered for her hits songs such as “Guys Do It All the Time,” “Ten Thousand Angels,” and “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now.”

McCready unfortunately faced a lot of struggles and trauma throughout her short life. David Wilson, her former boyfriend and the father of her son, died by suicide at her home in Arkansas.

Just one month later, on February 17, 2013, McCready also died by suicide at the same home. She was only 37 years old.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text “TALK ” to 741-741, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Joey Feek – Died At Age 40

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Joey Feek
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Joey Feek was a bright and beautiful light who shared equally beautiful songs with the world. She and her husband, Rory Feek, formed the duo Joey + Rory.

Together, they released songs such as “If I Needed You,” “That’s Important to Me,” and “Cheater Cheater.” They also recorded gospel music.

Feek was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014. The cancer returned in 2015, and she made the decision to stop all treatments in October of that year.

Feek passed away on March 4, 2016. She was only 40 years old.

Holly Dunn – Died At Age 59

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Holly Dunn
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Holly Dunn left behind a lasting legacy in her songs. She’s known for tunes such as “Daddy’s Hands,” “Are You Ever Gonna Love Me,” and “You Really Had Me Going.”

Dunn retired from performing in 2003. She spent the rest of her life focusing on her other big passion…artwork.

Sadly, Dunn was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she died on November 14, 2016. She was only 59 years old.

Troy Gentry – Died At Age 50

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Troy Gentry
The Troy Gentry Foundation / Facebook

Troy Gentry performed alongside his good friend Eddie Montgomery in Montgomery Gentry for 18 years. Together, they released hit songs such as “My Town,” “Something to Be Proud Of,” and “Lucky Man.”

The country music community was devastated when news broke that Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash in Medford, New Jersey. Montgomery Gentry was supposed to perform in the city later that night.

Gentry was only 50 years old at the time of his death. 

Lari White – Died At Age 52

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Lari White
Lari White / Facebook

Country singer Lari White scored a string of hits in the 1990s with songs such as “That’s My Baby,” “Now I Know,” and “Stepping Stone.” She also released a hit duet with Travis Tritt called “Helping Me Get Over You.”

White was also an actress. She notably appeared in the 2000 Tom Hanks film Cast Away.

White was diagnosed with cancer in September 2017. She passed away just a few months later, on January 28, 2018 at the age of 52.

Daryle Singletary – Died At Age 46

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Daryle Singletary
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Daryle Singletary loved country music, and country music loved him right back in return. He was known for hits such as “I Let Her Lie,” “Amen Kind of Love,” and “Too Much Fun.” He also recorded a successful version of Conway Twitty’s “I’d Love to Lay You Down.”

Singletary died unexpectedly at his home in Lebanon, Tennessee on February 12, 2018. A cause of death was not released.

Joe Diffie – Died At Age 61

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Joe Diffie
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Country music legend Joe Diffie will forever be remembered for his songs such as “Pickup Man,” John Deere Green,” and “Third Rock from the Sun.”

On March 27, 2020, Diffie shared he tested postive for COVID-19. He died two days later, on March 29, due to complications from the virus (according to The Associated Press).

Diffie was only 61 years old at the time of his death.

Toby Keith – Died At Age 62

Country Stars We Lost Too Soon - Toby Keith
John Shearer / Getty Images for ACM

You’d have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t know at least one Toby Keith song. His greatest hits include tracks such as “I Wanna Talk About Me,” “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” and “How Do You Like Me Now?!”

Keith had to take a break from performing when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2021. After taking some time to focus on his family and his treatments, he returned to the stage in 2023.

He delivered a memorable performance at the People’s Choice Country Awards of his song “Don’t Let the Old Man In.” Many were moved to tears by the performance.

Keith performed for the final time in December 2023. He passed away just two months later, on February 5, 2024.

Today, and every day, we chose to honor and remember Keith and every artist featured in this list. We wish they could have been with us far longer than they were, but we’re so grateful we had them in the first place…