Following the sad news, Blake Shelton and a number of other country stars paid tribute to the 1980's singer

By Joelle Goldstein
April 10, 2019 07:45 PM
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Blake Shelton and Earl Thomas Conley
| Credit: Blake Shelton/Instagram

The country community is in mourning after singer Earl Thomas Conley died this week. He was 77.

Earl, best known for his ’80’s hits “Holding Her and Loving You,” “What I’d Say” and “Once In a Blue Moon,” died in Nashville early Wednesday, Blake Shelton confirmed.

Shelton paid tribute to Earl, whom he referred to as his “favorite singer, hero, and friend”, in a touching post on social media. The pair had been friends for years and collaborated in 2002 to co-write Shelton’s Top 20 hit “All Over Me” along with Michael Pyle.

“My heart is absolutely destroyed today… I’m sad to report that Earl Thomas Conley passed away very early this morning,” Shelton, 42, wrote on his social media accounts Wednesday, along with a photo of the pals smiling during a performance.

“Earl was my all time favorite singer, hero and my friend. Prayers to his family. We will all miss you deeply my brother. Now go rest…”

In response to Shelton’s tweet, Trisha Yearwood wrote: “I am so sad to hear this news. ETC you will be greatly missed.”

Conley died Wednesday morning at 12:20 a.m. following months of hospice care, his brother Fred confirmed to The Tennessean.

The country star, often referred to as “ETC”, had been suffering from a condition similar to dementia for some time and struggled to regain his health, his brother told the outlet.

“He just kept losing ground,” Fred said. “I’m brokenhearted.”

Erinn Scates, Earl’s 22-year-old daughter who is also a musician, told The Tennessean that “he was a great dad, and he filled our lives with color.”

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Earl Thomas Conley
| Credit: Rick Diamond/Getty

Earl launched into stardom on the cusp of the ’80s after signing with Warner Bros. Records, where his first hit “Dreamin’s All I Do” reached the Top 40, according to Billboard.

Shortly after in 1981, his song “Fire and Smoke” hit No. 1 — his first single to do so. Earl would continue to produce chart-toppers between 1983-1986 and was even nominated for multiple Grammy Awards for his song “Holding Her and Loving You” in 1983.

In his tenure, the country star released 10 albums with over 30 of his singles listed on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, the outlet reports.

Ahead of Earl’s death, his daughter shared a video on Facebook of a song she had written, inspired by her dad’s illness.

“I wrote this song as my dad got more sick with time,” Scates, the youngest of Earl’s children, wrote in February. “I miss who my dad used to be all of the time, but this has taught me a lot about loving people while you have them and appreciating the little things.”

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Earl Thomas Conley
| Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Following the sad news on Wednesday, in addition to Shelton and Yearwood, several stars in the country community expressed their sadness to lose Earl — many of whom credited the singer for influencing their careers today.

Big & Rich‘s John Rich remembered the country music icon in a post on Twitter, noting how inspired he was by Earl and how he would “study his records like textbooks.”

“So sad to hear #EarlThomasConley passed away today,” he wrote along with a video performance by Earl. “He was a huge influence on my style and songwriting. I studied his records like textbooks and could play every note of every song. Truly one of the all time greats in country music.”

Jason Aldean spoke to the impact that Earl’s music had on his own career. “RIP ‘ETC’… Man what a voice this guy had. Spent many nights listening and playing his songs. Country Music lost a great one today guys. #EarlThomasConley #ETC” he tweeted.

Wade Hayes echoed those sentiments, writing, “Very sad news about Earl Thomas Conley. He was a big influence to me and I loved his music very much. He will be missed.”

Also joining the tributes were Chris Young and The Swon Brothers, who rose to fame while competing on The Voice.

“RIP Earl Thomas Conley… sad day for country music,” wrote Young.

Alongside a video of Zach Swon performing a piano cover of Earl’s song, the brothers wrote, “Sad day for country music. #EarlThomasConley”