NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Following a lengthy struggle to regain his health, country music legend Mel Tillis passed away early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida.
Tillis battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure. Tillis was 85.
Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida on August 8, 1932.
Mel Tillis spent a lifetime giving us joy and laughter and music, which is why his death brings such sadness,” said Kyle Young, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO. “Had he never stepped on a stage, he would still have been one of the funniest and most genuine people on the planet. But his whimsy and warmth were only a part of his appeal. He wrote some of country music’s most compelling and consequential songs, he fronted a remarkable band, and he sang with power and emotion. He also shone as an inspiration, revealing what others called an impediment as a vehicle for humor and hope.”
Throughout his 60+ year career, the Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, six #1 hits (“I Ain’t Never,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” “Southern Rains,” “Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer,” and “I Believe In You”), was named the Country Music Association’s coveted Entertainer of the Year, and was elected a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He wrote over 1,000 songs, 600 of which have been recorded by major artists including Kenny Rogers (“Ruby, Don’t You Take Your Love To Town”), George Strait (“Thoughts Of A Fool”), and Ricky Skaggs (“Honey, Open That Door”). Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades.
In February of 2012 President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.
Funeral arrangements were not announced.