In Memoriam: Country Singers We’ve Lost In 2016

Ebet Roberts/Redferns (Left), Breedon IV/WireImage (Center), Brian Armas (Right)

This year has been filled with many startling moments that have affected us all, and tragically, some of those moments include the loss of singers we have been listening to and adoring for years.

Throughout the year we have paid tribute and honored many of these incredibly talented and beloved singers in a variety of ways, but in this one-of-a-kind article we are honoring all of them together in a way of showing our dedication to the brightness they’ve brought to our lives through music.

Some of the folks that we’ve lost have been incredibly young and some quite old, but each one meant something to all of us and did their part to continue the legacy of country music as a whole – a movement we all can appreciate!

Craig Strickland

The beloved husband and 29-year-old lead singer of country group Backroad Anthem tragically passed away after falling victim to hyperthermia during a duck hunting trip on December 27th, 2015. Nearly 10 days later, his body was found. He was an incredible vocalist with a passion for music not many can compare to. In the above video, his bandmates pay tribute to the dear friend they lost far too soon.

Steve Young

Known for penning one of the biggest hits of the 70s, Steve Young never reached superstar status nor achieved great commercial successes through his album releases, but crafted many tunes that we all know and received great praise for his albums from fellow artists. Young passed away on March 17, 2016 at 73.

Guy Clark

On of the most acclaimed folk singers in the world, Guy Clark dazzled fans with more than 20 studio albums and saw some of his greatest songs covered by incredible artists over the years. One of his signature songs and a song that helped launch his career, “Desperados Waiting For A Train” was penned about his grandmother’s boyfriend, who was always like a grandfather to him. Sadly, Clark passed away on May 17th following complications of some longstanding health issues. He was 74 years old.

Red Simpson

A pioneer of the Bakersfield Sound and a musician who wrote many truck-themed songs, Red Simpson scored his first No. 1 with Buck Owen’s “Sam’s Place”. Simpson passed away on January 8th, 2016 after being hospitalized following a heart attack.

Bonnie Brown

Part of the three-sibling trio known as The Browns, Bonnie Brown and her two siblings became famous in country music with the release of their No. 1 hit, “The Three Bells” in 1959. Brown passed away in July 2016 following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. She was preceded in death by her brother, Jim Ed Brown and is survived by her sister, Maxine Brown.

Sonny James

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, Sonny James was a chart-topping superstar and best-known for his hit, “Young Love”. James also has his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Sadly, he passed away in Nashville on February 22nd from natural causes. He was 87 years old.

Ralph Stanley

A man known for his endless talent and legendary bluegrass music, Ralph Stanley was a prominent figure in country music for decades. He played with a seemingly innumerable amount of classic artists and truly helped music grow and flourish. He passed away at age 89 following a battle with cancer.

Hubert Dwane “Hoot” Hester

A legendary fiddler, Hoot Hester was a famous musician who played with the best acts in the world, including Randy Travis, Alabama, The Time Jumpers, Earl Scruggs, Steve Wariner, Conway Twitty, and many more. In addition to being the fiddler for The Time Jumpers, he was also one of the founding members. Hester passed away in August 2016 after a year-long battle with cancer.

Jean Shepard

Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and one of the longest-standing members of the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Shepard became the only female to ever reach 60 years of membership with the Opry. Her first hit, “A Dear John Letter” followed Kitty Wells to the top of the charts and she broke ground as the first female to sell more than one million copies after World War II. She passed away on September 25th, 2016 due to a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Leon Russell

Covered by more than 40 notable artists, Leon Russell’s hit song, “A Song For You” is one of the timeless pieces of music nobody will soon forget – and it certainly wasn’t the only wildly successful piece he penned. Russell, a vocalist, songwriter, and studio musician was one of the most widely-loved musicians to ever grace the airwaves and chartered a 60-year career that had an immense impact on almost every genre. An inductee into the Rock and Roll Songwriters Hall of Fame, Russell passed away on November 13th, 2016 at the age of 74 after undergoing heart surgery.

Joey Martin Feek

One half of immeasurably talented duo, Joey + Rory, Joey Martin Feek passed away tragically on March 4th, 2016 after a long and heartbreaking battle with cervical cancer. Due to husband Rory’s blog, her story reached millions of people and inspired even more with her devout Christian faith. The pair originally thought the cancer had been removed following a surgery in 2014, but learned that it had returned just a year later. With doctors at a loss for treatments, they decided to stop all medical treatments and return home to live out the rest of her days with as much love and family time as they could get.

Mentor Williams

Arguably one of the biggest hits of the 70s that nearly everyone knows, Mentor Williams’ dazzling success with “Drift Away” was catapulted into superstardom with Dobie Gray’s cover of it in 1973. Williams, brother of songwriter Paul Williams, penned hits for some of the biggest names in music and was the longtime partner of Lynn Anderson. Williams passed away on November 16th after battling lung cancer at the age of 70.

Holly Dunn

After writing “Daddy’s Hands” as a father’s day gift for her dad, Holly Dunn had no idea how powerful the message would be for millions of people worldwide, but she quickly found out when upon its release, shot strait to the Top 10! Dunn penned many hits for other singers like Louise Mandrell before nailing a recording contract herself. Her legacy includes 10 full studio albums and 19 charted singles. Tragically, we lost Holly Dunn on November 14th 2016 after losing her battle to a rare form of ovarian cancer.

Merle Haggard

An iconic legend and wildly talented singer and songwriter, Merle Haggard passed away on his 79th birthday in April 2016. After a rough and tumble time as a kid, Haggard turned his life around and started off on a path that would make him one of the most legendary country music singers to exist. In addition to recording more than 45 studio albums and earning 30 hit No. 1 singles, Haggard continued to write and record regularly throughout his entire life. Upon his death, his family revealed he had left behind a massive collection of unreleased and unrecorded music that contained more than 400 songs. He received a seemingly endless number of awards throughout his life from almost every music honoring association and after his passing, the Academy of Country Music established the Merle Haggard Spirit Award in his honor.