Some of country music's greatest singers may have passed away before their time, but their songs and stories continue to inspire new artists across all genres. From Hank Williams, Sr. to Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline, here are 11 country legends who left us before we were ready to see them go.
1. Hank Williams, Sr., age 29
Although Hank Williams, Sr. passed away at the young age of 29, the country legend left his mark on American music forever.
The "Lovesick Blues" singer released 35 albums, five posthumously, and his children and grandchildren continue to grace the country charts today with their music.
Williams, who would have been 91 today, passed away on January 1, 1953 from a heart attack thought to be caused by a toxic combination of drugs.
2. Mindy McCready, age 37
Country singer Mindy McCready died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on February 17, 2013. She was 37 and the mother of two young sons.
McCready rose to fame in the 1990s but in recent years her life was marked with tragedy and scandal as she reportedly dealt with mental health and addiction issues.
3. Conway Twitty, age 59
Conway Twitty's tunes included country classics like "Tight Fittin' Jeans" and "Hello Darlin'." Before passing away at the age of 59, Twitty made history with 55 number one hit singles.
Although the singer was never invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opery, his music has influenced many of today's country singers.
4. Patsy Cline, age 30
Patsy Cline died tragically in a plane crash at the age of 30. Before her death, she placed nine songs on the Billboard country charts but the singer went on to sell millions of records after her passing.
Cline was known for her rich tone and has been called one of the greatest female singers of the 20th century.
5. Tammy Wynette, age 55
Dubbed the First Lady of Country Music, Tammy Wynette passed away at age 55. She is best known for her song “Stand by Your Man” and has been credited with helping to pave the way for female country artists.
After her burial, Wynette’s body was exhumed after her daughters filed a wrongful death lawsuit against their mother’s doctor/manager/husband George Richey. The coroner declared the singer died of a cardiac arrhythmia and the case against Richey was later dropped.
6. Keith Whitley, age 33
Keith Whitley was enjoying life as a newlywed and a successful career in country music when he passed away at the age of 33. Much controversy has surrounded the cause of death of the “I’m no stranger to the Rain” singer.
His death was thought to be caused by alcoholism, however, in 2009, the man who determined Whitley died of alcohol poisoning had his license to practice pathology revoked, adding to the confusion surrounding what exactly killed the singer.
7. Eddie Rabbitt, age 56
Eddie Rabbitt began his career as a successful song writer. He penned Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain" and later went on to write his own hits including "Drivin' My Life Away" and "I love a Rainy Night".
He died at age 56 of lung cancer.
8. Gram Parsons, age 26
Country-rock singer Gram Parsons died of an overdose of morphine and alcohol after a night of partying in Joshua Tree National Park.
Parsons premature death at age 26 is memorialized at the park where the singer asked to be cremated.
9. Jim Reeves, age 40
Jim Reeves placed an impressive 46 songs on the Billboard charts before he died in a crash of a plane he was piloting.
After his death at age 40, Reeves' widow worked with his record label to keep the singer's music alive. He went on to score 33 more hits after his passing including "Blue Side of Lonesome".
10. Dottie West, age 58
Dottie West died in a car crash after she urged her neighbor and driver to pick up the speed because she was late for a performance at the Grand Ole Opry.
The "Country Sunshine" singer was honored by many of her friends including Johnny Cash, Larry Gatlin and longtime fan President George H.W. Bush after her death at age 58.
11. John Denver, age 53
The country-folk singer and humanitarian died at age 53 when his plane crashed off the California coast. Denver is best known for his hits "Rocky Mountain High" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads".