A legend from the Grand Ole Opry Jean Shepard has died. Jean Shepard, country music star and influential female musician who is in the Country Music Hall of Fame, entered a hospice last week and has died in Nashville, Tennessee.
This is tragic:
“Today is one of the hardest days of my life. Mom has been called home this morning and is now at peace,” the singer’s son Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. said in a statement quoted by Billboard Magazine. The magazine said Shepard entered hospice care last week after a long illness.
Representatives for Shepard did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither the Tennessean nor Billboard listed a cause of death or said where she died.
Shepard, who had a No. 1 in 1953 with the song “Dear John Letter,” performed into her final years and published a memoir, “Down Through the Years,” the newspaper said. She was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville’s famous country music weekly program, in 1955, at 22, the Tennessean said. At her death, she was its longest-serving member.
When the joined the Grand Ole Opry, the only other female members were Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl, the newspaper said. In 1960, she married singer Hawkshaw Hawkins. In March 1963, when Shepard was 8 months pregnant with their second child, Hawkins died in the plane crash that killed country singer Patsy Cline.
She remarried twice, including in 1968 to her husband of almost 50 years, musician Benny Birchfield, the newspaper said.
Few women were able to be lead touring and recording artists when she started her career. She cleared the way for other performers, such as Loretta Lynn.
Born and Oklahoma in 1933, her family moved to California when she was a child. She was a staunch defender of traditional country music, and has spoken out against modern “pop-inflected country music.”
She is survived by her husband, three sons and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Let us pray for Shepard’s family during this difficult time. RIP.