Tracy Lawrence is remembering his friend and fellow '90s country hitmaker, Joe Diffie. In a new interview with Taste of Country, Lawrence reflects on Diffie's legacy, saying, "I hope he doesn't fade into obscurity" due to the timing of his death and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diffie stunned the country music industry when he died on March 29, 2020, just two days after announcing that he had been diagnosed positive for COVID-19 on March 27. He was 61 years old at the time of his death, which marked country music's first loss from the pandemic that would also claim the lives of John Prine, Charley Pride, deejay and songwriter Bill Mack and more.

Diffie and Lawrence were contemporaries in the new wave of country artists who swept to stardom in the '90s and dominated the decade at country radio. They later toured together with Mark Chesnutt on the Rockin' Roadhouse Tour in 2002, which featured all three '90s hitmakers sharing songs from across their careers.

"Joe and I were real close," Lawrence tells us. "We talked every couple of weeks, and had for a long time."

Lawrence says he had "just talked to him" on the phone about one of their country music colleagues who was going through some hard times.

"We were trying to figure out how we could help them, and then the next thing I know, he's in the hospital, and then five days later, he's dead," Lawrence recounts. "It happened so fast."

"We still haven't had a memorial for Joe," he adds. "We weren't able to go to funerals. It was awful ... I think we need to do something to memorialize him, because Joe was a very respected vocalist. Joe was revered as one of the best in this town, and I hope he doesn't just fade into obscurity and nobody remembers him."

Lawrence turned to social media on the one-year anniversary of Diffie's death on March 29 to remember him, writing, "I sure miss my friend." He shared a vintage picture of himself and Diffie together on stage, followed by another of them off stage back during the era when the two country hitmakers sported two of the most impressive mullets in country music.

"Hard to believe it's been a year since Joe's passing," he writes to accompany the pictures. "I sure miss my friend. We shared a lot of great times together ... he was such a talented man and one of my favorite voices in country music. I think of him often. I'm gonna have a beer and listen to some @officialjoediffie tonight. Here's to Joe."

Diffie's debut single, 1990's "Home," earned the singer his first No. 1 song, which he followed with four more chart-topping tunes, including "Pickup Man" and "Third Rock From the Sun." Diffie also wrote songs for Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina, among others.

Lawrence is celebrating 30 years of country music in 2021 with the impending release of three new albums, collectively titled Hindsight 2020. The first installment, Stairway to Heaven Highway to Hell, arrives on Friday (April 23), and Lawrence will mark the occasion with a special 30th-anniversary livestream show on April 27, featuring his biggest hits from across his three decades in country music.

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