COVID-19 celeb victims list grows with country singer Joe Diffie, Japanese comedian Ken Shimura, Pakistani squash great Azam Khan
NEW YORK (AP): Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like Home and Pickup Man, has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 61.
Diffie on Friday announced he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis. Diffie's publicist Scott Adkins said the singer died on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, due to complications from the virus.
Diffie, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years. His hits included Honky Tonk Attitude, Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die), Bigger Than the Beatles and If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).
"Country music lost one of the good guys today,” Naomi Judd said in a statement.
Diffie shared a Grammy award for best country collaboration for the song Same Old Train, with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and others. His last solo album was 2010's The Bluegrass Album: Homecoming.
“Joe Diffie, one of our best singers and my buddy, is gone,” Tanya Tucker said in a statement. “We are the same age, so it's very scary. I will miss his voice, his laughter, his songs.”
“Joe was a real true honky-tonk hero to every country artist alive today,” singer John Rich said in a statement. “No one sang our music better than he did, and to see his life and artistry cut short is beyond tragic. He was loved, cherished and respected by all of country music and beyond.”
Toby Keith extended his condolences to Diffie's family, saying in a statement, “A great traditional voice will live on cuz I'm putting his music on now. Here's a beer to ya, Joe. Go get your reward.”
Deanna Carter said she was “shell shocked” by the news and had hoped to perform again with Diffie this year. “He was a powerhouse that stopped people in their tracks, both on and off stage,” she said in a statement.
Diffie is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from four marriages.
Popular Japanese comedian dies from the coronavirus
Popular Japanese comedian Ken Shimura, who drew inspiration from the American comedic icon Jerry Lewis, has died from the coronavirus, becoming Japan's first known celebrity victim of the disease. He was 70.
Shimura, who attracted fans of all generations with his slapstick comedy and funny faces, had been treated at a Tokyo hospital and died on Sunday, according to his agency, Izawa Office.
He was diagnosed with pneumonia after contracting the coronavirus. He was hospitalised on March 20 after developing a fever and breathing troubles and was put on on a ventilator.
The news of his death comes as new cases have spiked in Tokyo, with the city's governor warning of an explosive spread of the virus in the region. The news topped Japanese television news and talk shows on Monday, and some fans and media gathered outside the hospital where he had been treated.
Tokyo had 68 new cases of the virus on Sunday, bringing its prefectural total to 430. Nationwide, Japan has confirmed 2,578 cases, including 712 from a cruise ship.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Shimura's death sent shock waves throughout Japan, where many people, especially the younger population, are seen as lacking a sense of urgency about the virus.
Shimura was a former member of the comedy rock band the Drifters, a household name in the 1970s and 1980s, and gained fame while starring in the group's prime-time comedy show “It's 8 o'clock, Gather Everyone!”
Shimura's death came as he was preparing for a new film. He was also to run in the Olympic torch relay in July to represent Higashimurayama, a town in Tokyo's suburbs, his agency said. Japan and Olympic officials have agreed to postpone the games until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don't think Shimura himself expected to have to go this way,” an Izawa Office staff member told reporters, adding that his comedy shows were still upcoming on TV.
“I hope you will remember him and laugh,” he said. “Until the end, he was committed to present laughter to the people.”
Pakistani squash great Azam Khan dies of coronavirus
Great Pakistani squash player Azam Khan has died of the novel coronavirus. He was 95.
According to a report in geo.tv, Azam, who won four consecutive British Open titles between 1959-62, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and breathed his last London's Ealing Hospital on Saturday.
Azam, who had settled in Britain back in the sixties, is one of the prominent members of the great Khan dynasty which ruled international squash decades.
Widely regarded as one of the best squash players in the world, he had also won the most important hardball tournament, the US Open, for the first time in 1962.
However, he left playing due to an Achilles tendon injury and the tragic death of his 14-year-old son in 1962. He recovered from his injury two years later but was unable to get over the death of his son.
His elder brother, Hashim Khan, was the first Pakistani to win the British Open back in 1951.
During his illustrious career, Azam featured in a total of seven British Open championships and was regarded as one of the world's best shot-makers and strategists.
Close to 1,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported till now in Pakitan and 16 people have also lost their lives.