Longtime country singer, songwriter Mel Tillis dies

Longtime country singer, songwriter Mel Tillis dies

Tillis, 85, died at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Fla. According to a statement made by his publicist, the musician battled intestinal issues and reportedly suffered respiratory failure.

Tillis wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many more. It wasn't until 1971 that he had his own first No. 1 hit as a recording artist, with "I Ain't Never", which he followed later in the decade with the chart-toppers "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer", "I Believe In You", and "Coca-Cola Cowboy".

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The Country Music Association named Tillis Entertainer of the Year in 1976, the Tennessean reported, and he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame that same year. Tillis has six children. "It's a way of showing people that it hasn't licked me, so it doesn't have to lick others".

The Country Music Hall of Famer leaves behind six children (Pam Tillis, Connie Tillis, Cindy Shorey, Sonny Tillis, Carrie April Tillis, and Hannah Puryear), six grandchildren, a great grandson, a sister (Linda Crosby) and brother (Richard Tillis), the mother of five of his children (Doris Tillis), his longtime partner (Kathy DeMonaco), and many lifelong friends and fans around the world. Mel Tillis always put on a show....

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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".

Musical from an early age, he started performing in the early 1950s with a group called The Westerners, while stationed in Okinawa and serving as a baker in the Air Force. "The more I go onstage", he said, "and feel my independence and that power over audiences, the less I stutter". President Barack Obama bestowed the National Medal of Arts award upon Tillis in 2012.

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The Tillis family said they plan to announce funeral arrangements for Nashville and Florida soon.

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