Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis dies at 85

Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis dies at 85

Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis, known for songs such as "I Ain't Never" and "Coca-Cola Cowboy", died early Sunday aged 85, his publicist confirmed.

Tillis passed away on 19 November 2017 in Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. The cause of death is believed to be respiratory failure. He wrote some of country music's most compelling and consequential songs, he fronted a remarkable band, and he sang with power and emotion. Over the course of his long career, he wrote more than 1,000 songs, recorded more than 60 albums, had almost three dozen top-10 singles, and pegged six No. 1 hits, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy", "I Ain't Never", and "I Believe in You". In 2007, his daughter, singer Pam Tillis, inducted him into the Grand Ole Opry and later that year was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Before making his way to Nashville, Tennessee, the songwriter briefly attended the University of Florida.

The heroic American joined the US Air Force to serve in the Korean War and was stationed in Okinawa, where he served the country by cooking and singing on Armed Forces Radio. Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades.

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Even so, he said of his speech impediment in a 1976 interview with People magazine, "One of my main objectives in life has been to whip this".

"I was so bashful and scared", he said in 2002 of his hesitancy about speaking in public, "and she said, 'If they laugh they'll be laughing with you, not against you'".

In 1998, he became spokesman and honorary chairman of the Stuttering Foundation of America, according to his website. Years later, he got his first No. 1 single with "I Ain't Never", and his "Coca Cola Cowboy" was featured in the Clint Eastwood film "Every Which Way but Loose". He also made a TV appearance in an episode of "The Dukes of Hazzard" in the late '70s. In February 2012, President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.

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