10 Terrible Country Music Tragedies

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No one in the world is exempt from tragedy or loss, not even the world’s biggest country music stars. When tragedy strikes it can be hard to continue on, especially when it involves something as heartbreaking as losing a child, spouse or sibling. These country music stars have suffered through some of the most unimaginable, terrible tragedies, but they haven’t let it bog them down. Faced with the choice of either giving up, or picking themselves up and moving forward, they all found a way to recover from some of the most heartbreaking experiences. Here’s a look at 10 of the most terrible country music tragedies:

10. George Strait

In 1986, country singer George Strait and his wife Norma suffered a terrible loss when they lost their first child. Their daughter, Jenifer Strait, was born on October 6, 1972. When she was only 13-years-old she was involved in a one-car accident while in San Marcos, Texas. She was ejected from the car in the accident and died immediately. Her death was far too early, but Strait didn’t let it happen in vein. He put his efforts into something worthwhile and started an organization called the Jenifer Lynn Strait Foundation in her honor that donates money to San Antonio children’s charities. He doesn’t speak much about his late daughter, but during an interview with USA Today, he said his song “You’ll Be There” makes him think of her. “I’m a religious person. I honestly believe we will see each other in heaven someday. I wanted to do the song badly. The writer, Cory Mayo, held that song out because he knew I wanted to do it, and he waited until I had the chance. It was kind of him to do that.” Strait has one other child, a son named Bubba.

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9. Luke Bryan

It’s quite surprising that someone with such a great sense of humor and positive outlook has suffered through so much tragedy. Luke Bryan has been through the ringer when it comes to losing family members. He suffered his first loss right after he graduated from high school and was about to head to Nashville to pursue a career in music. Things quickly came to a halt when his older brother, Chris, suddenly passed away in a car accident. The tragedy hit his family hard, so Bryan decided to put his career on hold and stay closer to home. He eventually got the push he needed from his father to move to Nashville and put his musical talent to use. However tragedy struck again after Luke Bryan celebrated one of the biggest moments in his career. Shortly after he made his Grand Ole Opry debut, Bryan’s sister Kelly passed away from unknown causes. Most recently, Luke’s brother-in-law Ben Lee Ceshire also passed away in November of 2014. The public wasn’t made aware of what the cause, but Ceshire was the husband of Luke’s late sister Kelly who also passed away. Luke Bryan and his wife Caroline Boyer took in their orphaned nephew, Tilden, as their own and are now raising him.

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8. Craig Morgan

This is definitely the most recent tragedy to have happened in country music. Popular singer, Craig Morgan lost his son, Jerry Greer, only two weeks ago on July 10, 2016. Greer was only 19-years-old when he died in a tubing accident on Kentucky Lake in Tennessee. The boy was out on the water tubing behind a boat when he fell off and never surfaced. The cause of his death is still unknown because he was wearing a life jacket at the time and was wearing it when his body was recovered. However, a Sheriff, Chris Davis, who was working on the case did say it was a matter of not being able to reach the surface in time. “It was just as simple as hitting a wave and turning over and not coming back up.” Morgan’s son Greer had just recently graduated from Dickson County High School and was planning on attending Marshall University in the Fall to play football. Just a few days after his unexpected passing, Morgan shared an emotional post with fans, friends and family, thanking them for all their support. “The loss of our son Jerry is the hardest thing we have ever had to endure as a family. Karen and I are so grateful for all of the wonderful people who have shown us unwavering support during this difficult time.” He went on to thank the emergency staff, agencies, and volunteers for their help in retrieving his body. He finished off by writing, “Jerry may be gone from this earth, and we will miss him everyday, but his spirit will live on in our hearts. We can find peace knowing that God has a bigger plan, and that one day, we’ll be reunited with him again in Heaven.”

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7. Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire suffered an enormous loss of not one, but eight close friends. This tragedy affected country fans deeply, and still does today. Reba was absolutely heartbroken and stricken with grief. In March of 1991, she lost eight of her band and tour crew members in a horrific plane accident when their charter jet crashed near San Diego. Among the people who perished were her band, manager and a co-pilot. The plane was enroute to Amarillo, Texas to refuel and then head to Fort Wayne, Indiana for one of Reba’s concerts. “One of them took off, and when the other one took off, the tip of the wing of the airplane hit a rock on the side of Otay Mountain, and it killed everyone on the plane,” McEntire said during an interview. She also commented that the pain might subside, but it never goes away. She recalled the awful moment she found out about the crash. “When we were notified, Narvel went and met with our pilot, and he told us what had happened. And Narvel came back to the hotel room where I was — it was two or three o’clock in the morning — and he said one of the planes had crashed, and I said, ‘Are they OK?’ He said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I said, ‘But you’re not sure?’ He said, ‘I don’t think so.'” Reba McEntire has vowed that her friends will never be forgotten and dedicated her next album For My Broken Heart to all the lives lost in that crash.

Photo by Broadimage/REX

6. Mindy McCready

The life of Mindy McCready was tumultuous and full of a lot of heart break. She had risen to success in 1996 when she was only 20-years-old after she released her first album, Ten Thousand Angels. In 20015 her boyfriend was arrested for attempted murder after he beat her badly. Not long after, merely two months she tried to commit suicide. She ended up getting back together with her abusive boyfriend, got pregnant with the hopes that it would mend their relationship, but things only seemed to get worse for McCready. While pregnant, she tried to commit suicide once again, but was unsuccessful. Her personal life continued to snowball downhill. She was involved in some legal trouble, got bad media attention after having an affair with baseball player, Roger Clemens, was arrested several times and sent to rehab. Eventually, things started looking up for McCready until her boyfriend, David Wilson, unexpectedly shot himself on the front porch of her Heber Springs, Ark., home. A month later, Mindy was served with court papers proposing her sons taken out of her custody and sent to live with her estranged mother. It wasn’t long before she was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on Feb. 17, 2013 in the same spot where Wilson was found.

Source: NY Daily News

5. Gary Allan

In the peak of Gary Allan’s career he went through something terribly traumatizing. On October 25, 2004, his wife of three years, Angela Herzberg, committed suicide while he was in the house. Herzberg was only 37-years-old at the time of her death, but she was suffering from severe depression and chronic migraines. Allan had just come home from being on tour and the family was supposed to head out to a Halloween party. Angela was getting physically sick from the migraines that night and not doing well. He offered to stay home with her, but she insisted he take the kids to the party. When they got home, he put them to bed. He went to lay down with her and she asked him if he could go check on the kids, but he said, “I just put them to bed, everyone’s fine. I took care of it all.” She then asked him to go get her a coke, “So I went into the kitchen and heard a loud pop. It sounded like she had thrown something. I had a gun safe under the bed, and she had taken out a pistol, stuck it in her mouth and pulled the trigger. She was on the bed. She was gone,” he said. Allan and their children were in the house at the time, and not surprisingly it took him a long time to recover from his grief and the guilt of not being home enough to know she was suffering so badly. He had to take time away from his career to deal with the loss and went to counselling with his children. Eventually, he found solace in music and it’s now become therapeutic for him.

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4. Eddie Montgomery

Just recently in September 2015, Eddie Montgomery lost his son, Hunter. He was only 19 at the time and had just become a father when he was involved in an accident that left him in intensive care. The accident was unspecified, but his mother, Montgomery’s ex-wife eventually spoke out and said the cause of death was due to an overdose. She lashed out against the media for their lack of privacy and spilled details about his death. She wrote on Facebook: “Since the media refuses to respect our request for privacy, I’m taking another route in hope that we might get some peace for our grieving…Our son died of an overdose. We believe it was accidental and will continue to believe that. We know that he needed help. Maybe Hunter’s and our family’s — pain will help another family avoid this. Not a day will go by without our missing him. Now that your curiosity is satisfied, please have the respect to stop hounding us. Instead, take our story and use it to help others.” Hunter was the youngest of Montgomery’s four children, but the tragedy was only one of many for this country singer. Not long before this devastating incident, Eddie Montgomery had battled and beat cancer, divorced his wife, lost his record deal and filed for bankruptcy.


3. Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson has suffered through hard, hard times. The ’90s were particularly rough when he got into some serious financial trouble. The country crooner was facing a multi-million dollar battle with the IRS for a debt of approximately $32 million. On top of that, Nelson had to cope with a terrible loss. On Christmas Day in 1991, Nelson’s son, Billy was found dead. It appeared he had killed himself by hanging after many of Nelson’s things were repossessed by the IRS to settle his debt. It seems Nelson was able to cope, but it’s safe to say he’s never fully recovered. He continues to make music and perform, but his ongoing battle with the IRS continues.

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2. Craig Strickland

This country singer was a rising star when he passed away. The tragic story began when he and a friend, Chase Morland, decided to head out on a duck hunting trip last December. However, neither one returned home and both were quickly declared missing. It wasn’t until a week later that his body was found nearly a quarter mile north of where his hunting buddy, Chase Morland’s body was also found in shallow water. When they found Moreland’s body, Strickland’s dog was standing guard over it. Their boat capsized in the middle of a winter storm and there was flooding across the central and southern United States that had already killed 35 people. Right before they headed out on their trip, Moreland sent an ominous tweet which almost foreshadowed what was to come, “In case we don’t come back, @BackroadCRAIG and I are going right through Winter Storm Goliath to kill ducks in Oklahoma.” The cause of death was later determined to be hypothermia. Strickland left behind his wife, Helen Strickland, former Miss Arkansas.

Source: Instagram

1. Joey Feek

Last Fall country music dealt with a truly heartbreaking loss. Joey Feek, who was half of the country gospel duo known as ‘Joey + Rory’ with her husband, Rory Feek, died at the age of 40 in her home in Alexandria, Indiana. She had been engaged in a long battle with terminal cancer. It all started back in 2014 shortly after the country couple welcomed their daughter, Indiana. Joey Feek revealed she was battling cervical cancer and a year later her husband shared that they were also fighting against Stage 4 colorectal cancer. In October 2015 she penned a heartbreaking blog post and stated that her doctors had done all they could for her and her family, but there wasn’t much more they could do. She discontinued her treatment and went home to enjoy the last few months she had to spend with her family. She left behind her daughter, Indiana and two step-children, Heidi and Hopie Feek.

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Katherine G

Katherine G

Katherine is the Managing Editor for Health and Parenting, but she has a soft spot for entertainment. She loves binging shows on Netflix, reality TV is a guilty pleasure, and country music is her go-to playlist. When she's not writing, she's spending time outdoors, especially with her puppy Zoey!