Country Music Legend Mel Tillis Dead At 85

May Mel Tillis rest in peace.

The country music singer-songwriter died at the age of 85 early Sunday morning at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. A representative for the Country Music Hall of Fame member cites respiratory failure as the cause of death, following a lengthy battle with intestinal issues.

Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, tells ET that Tillis’ death “brings such sadness” and describes him as “one of the funniest and most genuine people.”

“Mel Tillis spent a lifetime giving us joy and laughter and music, which is why his death brings such sadness,” Young says. “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.”

Young continues, “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 humour and hope.”

Tillis, who was the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year in 1976, was best known for writing hits such as Bobby Bare’s “Detroit City,” Webb Pierce’s “I’m Tired” and the 1969 crossover track for Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”

Fans and country music stars alike are taking to social media to mourn the star’s death. Singer-songwriter and “Voice” judge Blake Shelton recalled many “cherished memories” with Tillis in a series of tweets.

Country superstar Tim McGraw describes Tillis as “one of the coolest guys in country music ever and an extraordinary songwriter,” while Grammy winner Crystal Gayle sends her “love and prayers.”

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