Legendary country music star Mel Tillis dies at 85

Image courtesy of David Redfern  Redferns

Image courtesy of David Redfern Redferns

Country music star Mel Tillis has tragically passed away at the age of 85. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure, according to a press release from his publicist.

"Mel Tillis spent a lifetime giving us joy and laughter and music, which is why his death brings such sadness", said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young. Many of those songs were recorded by other country music stars such as Kenny Rogers, George Strait and Ricky Skaggs.

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida in 1932, Tillis caught malaria as a child, leaving him with a speech impediment for which he was mocked in his youth but which he embraced as an adult, incorporating it into his performances for comic effect.

In February 2012 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts - the highest honor given to artists by the U.S. government - by President Barack Obama.

In 2007, Tillis' daughter Pam, who is also a country singer, inducted her father into the prestigious Grand Ole Opry. He was also a member of the Grand Ole Opry and a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee.

Tillis was also an actor, and appeared in several feature films. Tillis eventually moved to Nashville and began writing songs full-time, most notably for Webb Pierce.

His commercial peak came in the 1970s when he had a string of top 10 hits, including "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer" and "Coca Cola Cowboy".

Our thoughts are with Mel's loved ones during this time. TV guest spots were frequent, including a debut acting appearance on "Love: American Style" in 1973, followed by shows like "The Dukes of Hazard", "The Tim Conway Show", and "The Love Boat".

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