Jean Shepard, Country Music Hall of Famer dead at 82

NASHVILLE, Sept. 26 (UPI) — Influential country star Jean Shepard has died at the age of 82.

Known as a Grand Ole Opry star since 1955, Shepard died Sunday after entering into hospice care last week. An exact cause of death has yet to be revealed.

“Today is one of the hardest days of my life. Mom has been called home this morning and is now at peace. Please keep our family in your prayers during this tough time. Thank you everyone for your support,” the singer’s son Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. said in a statement according to Billboard.

“Our stage will never be the same. Jean Shepard, thank you for the memories,” the Grand Ole Opry added on Twitter alongside a memorial image of Shepard.

Shepard is credited for opening doors for female country stars as she chose to tour alone as a solo act instead of being part of a group and she is known for releasing country music’s first concept album in 1956, Songs From a Love Affair, that dealt with a marriage ending due to adultery.

Shepard is known for hit songs such as number one hit “A Dear John Letter,” along with “A Satisfied Mind,” “Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar),” and “I’ll Take the Dog,” a duet with Ray Pillow. Her last single, “Too Many Rivers” was released in 1981.

Shepard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. Outspoken about modern pop-country music, the trailblazer once said to the The Tennessean in 2015, “Today’s country is not country, and I’m very adamant about that.”

“I’ll tell anybody who’ll listen, and some of those who don’t want to listen, I’ll tell them anyway. … Country music today isn’t genuine,” she continued.

Shepard is survived by her husband, Benny Birchfield, and sons Don Robin Hawkins, Harold Franklin Hawkins II and Corey Birchfield.

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