2020 has been a tough year – extremely tough in the world of country music.

It’s been a year of ups and downs – more so the latter.  2020 has already claimed the lives of several country stars, their family members and up-and-coming artists as well.

On 10 January, Martina McBride revealed that her mother, Jeanne Schiff, had died.  Both her mother and father were instrumental in the early days of her country music career.

On 16 January, country-rock singer-songwriter Chris Darrow died at the age of 75 after suffering complications from a stroke.  He played with artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Leonard Cohen and James Taylor, but was best known as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Two days later on 18 January, singer songwriter David Olney died after suffering a heart attack on stage while performing at a Songwriters Festival in Florida.  He was 71.

Songwriter Ed Setser, who wrote for the Oak Ridge Boys, Reba McEntire, Brenda Lee and Eric Clapton among others, died on 27 January, aged 77.  His biggest hit was ‘Seven Spanish Angels’ which Ray Charles and Willie Nelson took to the top of the charts in 1984.

On 12 February, Willie Nelson’s longtime drummer Paul English died in Texas from pneumonia, aged 87.

On 14 March, Reba McEntire’s mother Jacqueline died after a battle with cancer at the age of 93.

One of the biggest shocks came on 20 March, when country legend Kenny Rogers died at his home in Georgia at the age of 81.

Just days later on 29 March, news broke of the unexpected death of Joe Diffie from coronavirus.  His death marked country music’s first loss to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it wouldn’t be the last.

On 7 April, one of country and folk music’s most respected singer-songwriters John Prine died at the age of 73, having battled the coronavirus for just over a week.

On 15 April, Oak Ridge Boys and Bill Gaither Trio member Gary McSpadden died from cancer, aged 77.

On 2 June, Nashville guitarist Jimmy Capps died at the age of 81,  His cause of death was not released at the time, and followed a career spanning more than 50 years playing for Kenny Rogers, Tammy Wynette, George Strait and Johnny Cash at the Grand Ole Opry.

A fortnight later, 13 June, Hank Williams Jr lost his 27-year-old daughter Katherine Williams-Dunning.  She died in a car accident when her vehicle crossed the median strip and rolled over in Nashville.

On 6 July another shock hit the industry with the death of Charlie Daniels at the age of 83.

Radio DJ Bill Mack died on 31 July after contracting COVID-19, aged 88.  He wrote ‘Blue’, a song that would become a smash hit for LeAnn Rimes.

In late August, Steve Earle’s son Justin Townes Earle died at the age of 38, his cause of death not being released at the time.

23 November would see the passing of another star in the form of Hal Ketchum who died at his home in Fischer, Texas, at the age of 67. The ‘Small Town Saturday Night’ singer passed away following complications from dementia.

On 12 December, the news broke of the death of Charley Pride from Coronavirus.

And on 21 December, K.T. Oslin died at the age of 78, just a week after testing positive for COVID-19.

Last Updated: Tue 22 Dec 2020, 10:03am