On Sunday, music lost another legend when country music star Mel Tillis passed away at the age of 85, according to a statement from his publicist. The Country Music Hall of Fame member had been ill for some time before reportedly dying of respiratory failure in Ocala, Florida.
"Following a lengthy struggle to regain his health, country music legend Mel Tillis passed away early this morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida," read the statement. "Tillis battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure."
Tillis, who was born Lonnie Melvin Tillis, was known for overcoming a serious speech impediment to record more than 60 albums in a career that spanned over six decades. He became a prominent figure in the entertainment industry in the 1970s when he penned hits like "Cola-Cola Cowboy," "Good Woman Blues," and "Heart Healer."
The singer wrote more than 1,000 songs, including hits for other country music stars such as George Strait and Kenny Rogers. He also appeared in a number of television shows and a few films like Smokey and the Bandit II and Every Which Way but Loose alongside Clint Eastwood.
Priror to getting his big break in Nashville, Tennesse, Tillis enlisted in the US Air Force to serve in the Korean War.
In February 2012, Barack Obama awarded him with the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given to any artist by the United States government.
As soon as the news about his death broke, many celebrities took to social media to express their condolences and pay tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter.
It was a somber day for the fans of Tillis, including celebrities like Blake Shelton, who didn't waste any time in sharing their sadness with the world.
Through a series of tweets Shelton wrote, "Some of my most cherished memories are the times I spent with Mel Tillis. Many many great memories. From fishing, to just having a beer, to him crashing my concert!"
He continued, “He once spent an entire day at his place in Tennessee showing me all the memorabilia he’d gathered over the years where he gave me a pair of his stage boots. He even took time to talk me through some hard times in my life on a couple phone calls...What a truly devastating loss. I loved Mel. I will miss him terribly. My thoughts and prayers to all his family,” concluded the singer."
Some of my most cherished memories are the times I spent with Mel Tillis. Many many great memories. From fishing, to just having a beer, to him crashing my concert!— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) November 19, 2017
Randy Travis also praised the late star, calling him a "special friend, great artist, and constant inspiration," adding, "Heaven's choir just got sweeter."
Mel Tillis was a special friend, great artist, and constant inspiration to me—Heaven’s choir just got sweeter.— Randy Travis (@randytravis) November 19, 2017
Rascal Flatts echoed Shelton and Travis's sentiments in a Tweet that read, "What an incredible loss for the country music world. Mel Tillis will be greatly missed."
What an incredible loss for the country music world. Mel Tillis will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/irIGx3XqdS— Rascal Flatts (@rascalflatts) November 19, 2017
The Governor of Florida, Mike Huckabee, and Grand Ole Opry also remembered the iconic artist in an emotional message on Twitter.
"More than just a country star he was an authentic gentleman," wrote Huckabee. "He leaves a legacy of great music and a great daughter the lovely and talented @PamTillis."
Sad news—Mel Tillis died. More than just a country star he was an authentic gentleman. He leaves a legacy of great music and a great daughter the lovely and talented @PamTillis https://t.co/06w375kHDf— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) November 19, 2017
"Thank you, Mel Tillis, for the songs, stories, and years of incredible entertainment. Our thoughts are with all of your loved ones," read a Tweet by the Grand Ole Opry.
Thank you, Mel Tillis, for the songs, stories, and years of incredible entertainment. Our thoughts are with all of your loved ones. pic.twitter.com/T6Uigxg8ut— Grand Ole Opry (@opry) November 19, 2017
Tim McGraw also took some time to share some nice words about Tillis.
"Man, one of the coolest guys in country music ever and an extraordinary songwriter! So glad I got a chance to hang out with him a bit early in my career. Thinking about his family... "
Man, one of the coolest guys in country music ever and an extraordinary songwriter! So glad I got a chance to hang out with him a bit early in my career. Thinking about his family... #MelTillis pic.twitter.com/C0opYMRCJX— Tim McGraw (@TheTimMcGraw) November 19, 2017
Tillis is survived by six children, six grandchildren, a great grandson, a sister, a brother, the mother of five of his children, Dorris Tillis, and his longtime partner, Kathy DeMonaco.
His family "asks for your prayers and will soon release more information regarding funeral services in Florida and Nashville."
Our prayers are with Tillis and his family. May he rest in peace.