How Did Earl Thomas Conley Die? New Details On The Tragic Death Of Country Singer (And Blake Shelton Collaborator)

Photo: Instagram
How Did Earl Thomas Conley Die? New Details On The Tragic Death Of Country Singer (And Blake Shelton Collaborator)

Singer Earl Thomas Conley has died. 

The country singer was 77 and best known for his big hits in the '80's like "Holding Her and Loving You," "What I'd Say" and "Once In a Blue Moon." Fellow country singer Blake Shelton confirmed that he had died in Nashville early Wednesday. 

Shelton, 42, paid tribute to Conley on Instagram. They had been friends for years and even collaborated, co-writing Shelton's 2002 Top 20 hit "All Over Me" with Michael Pyle. 

"My heart is absolutely destroyed today... I’m sad to report that Earl Thomas Conley passed away very early this morning," Shelton wrote alongside a photo of him and Conley singing together. "Earl was my all time favorite singer, hero and my friend. Prayers to his family. We will all miss you deeply my brother. Now go rest..."

So how did Earl Thomas Conley die? Here's everything we know about the country singer's death.

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1. He had health issues.

Conley's brother, Fred Conley, confirmed to The Tennessean that his brother passed away on Wednesday morning at 12:20 a.m. after spending months in hospice care. He had a condition similar to dementia and his health has been declining.

"He just kept losing ground," Fred Conley said. "I'm brokenhearted."

A post on Conley's Facebook page also confirmed his death but didn't give a specific cause as to what killed him. 

"We are with great sadness and regret informing the loyal Fans and Friends of Earl Thomas Conley that Earl passed away early this morning. Earl has been in poor health for a few years now. Please know that he loved and appreciated each and every one of you! He always said that YOU are the best fans ever! He is now resting peacefully!"

2. His partner said the cause was cerebral atrophy.

Carole Scates, his partner for over 20 years, told The New York Times that Conley's cause of death was cerebral atrophy.

Generally speaking, cerebral atrophy refers to the loss of cells in the brain, meaning that your brain is literally shrinking. It can cause other illnesses like dementia and seizures along with muscle weakness and hearing loss.

It's not clear how Conley got cerebral atrophy, but things like Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, stroke, cerebral palsy, Huntington's disease, and even some infections like as AIDS and encephalitis can cause it. 

3. His children are mourning his death.

The Tennessean also spoke to his children about their father's passing.

"He was a great dad, and he filled our lives with color," said his youngest child, Erinn Scates, 22.

"I could always count on Daddy to rescue me from life when life wasn't always perfect," said the singer's oldest daughter Amy Edmisten, 50.

"My hero," his son Ty Conley, 55, added. 

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4. His daughter recently wrote a song about him. 

Before Conley passed, his daughter Scates shared a video on Facebook back in February of a song she wrote that was inspired by her father's illness.

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“I wrote this song as my dad got more sick with time,” she wrote. “I miss who my dad used to be all of the time, but this has taught me a lot about loving people while you have them and appreciating the little things.”

"I'm 3/4's off of the deep end, and I dont know how to fill what you lack. It feels like everything is in grayscale, and I'm just trying to bring the color back."

5. Other stars are paying tribute to his life.

After the news of Conley's death spread, people all throughout the music industry shared kind words about the singer.

“So sad to hear #EarlThomasConley passed away today,” Big & Rich's John Ric wrote. “He was a huge influence on my style and songwriting. I studied his records like textbooks and could play every note of every song. Truly one of the all time greats in country music.”

"RIP ‘ETC’… Man what a voice this guy had. Spent many nights listening and playing his songs. Country Music lost a great one today guys. #EarlThomasConley #ETC," Jason Aldean tweeted.

“I am so sad to hear this news," Trish Yearwood wrote in response to Shelton's post. ETC you will be greatly missed.”

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Emily Blackwood is a writer and editor living in California. She covers all things news, pop culture, and true crime.