Joe Diffie, one of country music’s steady performers in the 1990s, provided a string of hits like “Honkey Tonk Attitude,” “Home,” “Pickup Man,” and a classic duo with Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Not Too Much to Ask,” but his “Third Rock From the Sun” had toes tapping and also became the title of a hit comedy on network TV.
The irony, sadly, came into play this weekend when Diffie, 61, died from complications from COVID-19 Coronavirus, the pandemic that is infecting and killing hundreds of thousands in a deadly swath that will send millions to their graves worldwide.
As a country music fan, I followed and enjoyed Diffie’s songs over the years. I was on assignment in Montana in 1994 when I first heard the song on the radio of my rental car. By the time I got back to Washington, the song was everywhere on country stations. It was written by Sterling Whipple, Tony Martin, and John Greenbaum and was one of Diffie’s biggert hits.
Some country music critics didn’t care for the song but others liked its light-hearted attitude. Jim Ridley of New Country Magazine called Third Rock “the funniest and most jaw-dropping string of calamities since Bo Diddley bungled his way through ‘Cops and Robbers.’ ”
Diffie told his fans of his infections just two days before he died in Nashville. He isn’t the only celebrity musician brought down by the disease. Allen Merrill, the songwriter and singer who wrote “I Love Rock ‘n Roll‘, Joan Jett’s hit, died in Manhattan on Sunday, the same day we lost Diffie.
Virginia gospel and blues musician Landon Spradlin, who called the virus a “hoax” just like President Donald Trump, died from coronavirus and double pneumonia in a hospital in Concord, NC, near Charlotte after getting sick while traveling back from New Orleans. He was 66.
Maria Mercader, a 54-year-old news producer for CBS, died in New York City. So has actor Mark Blum, 69, renowned chef Floyd Cardoz, 59, in New Jersey and playwright and screenwriter Terrence McNally, 81, in Sarasota, FL.
Actor Tom Hanks and wife Rita were diagnosed with the disease while working on a film in Australia but were released from the hospital and recovered at home in self-quarantine. England prime minister Boris Johnson has the virus. So do various members of Congress along with national, state and local officials.
The virus doesn’t discriminate when it comes to victims.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate, and nor should our response, if it is to succeed,” says a statement from Unifcef, released on March 20. “While many countries have chosen to tighten controls at their borders in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that such measures be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner, in line with international law, and prioritizing the protection of the most vulnerable. Only with an inclusive approach, truly leaving no-one behind, will we all be able to overcome this global crisis of unprecedented magnitude and proportions.”