October 19

The Best Songs From The Chart-topping Oklahoma Vocalist, Joe Diffie

Today, let’s celebrate a legendary’s career that spanned more than three decades by looking back at some of Joe Diffie songs. 

On March 29, country music lost one of its legendary artists. The Grand Ole Opry member passed away at 61 due to complications from COVID-19. Diffie’s family announced his passing through a statement posted on social media.

“GRAMMY®-winning country music legend Joe Diffie passed away today, Sunday, March 29 from complications of coronavirus (COVID-19),” the statement read. “His family requests privacy at this time.”

Listed down below are our favorite songs by Joe Diffie. Check it out!

10. “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)”

From: A Thousand Winding Roads (1991)

Reaching the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks, “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)” established him as a vocal stylist in the line of Vern Gosdin and George Jones.

The song also received positive reviews from music critics. Cashbox magazine, for instance, complimented “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” saying that it “focuses on a much lighter storyline, compared to previous releases. This cut humorously sheds a ‘devil-made-me-do-it’ theme swallowed up by a fun and bouncy tempo.”

Undeniably, it’s hard to get past this song’s irresistibly bouncy two-step beat and Diffie’s masterful vocal performance. But if you’ll dig a little deeper, you’ll find out that “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)” got some clever lyrics about America’s love affair with easy money. The scene played out at Diablo Motors with Diffie falling prey to a fast-talking used car salesman, who pressured him into buying a rundown car that he can’t afford.

9. “So Help Me Girl”

From: Third Rock from the Sun (1994)

 “So Help Me Girl” debuted at No. 59 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks, but it managed to climb to No. 2.

The song gained renewed popularity three years later when actor and TV personality Gary Barlow released “So Help Me Girl” as the lead single from the album in the United States and as the third single from his debut solo album Open Road in Europe.

8. “Third Rock From the Sun” 

From: Third Rock from the Sun (1994)

“Third Rock From The Sun” became Joe Diffie’s first No. 1 in three years! 

In this remarkable tune, Diffie sang about a series of unfortunate events experienced by one town all in just one night. The events range from a townsman being carjacked by a group of teenagers to the town’s Sheriff getting knocked out by the woman he attempted to pick up at the local bar.

The song is full of spunk and life, featuring an upbeat tempo and whirlwind of musical talent. Diffie’s vocals captivate the madness as he sings, “Cause and effect, chain of events. All of the chaos makes perfect sense. When you’re spinning round, things come undone. Welcome to Earth, third rock from the Sun.”

7. “Home”

From: A Thousand Winding Roads (1990)

Joe Diffie once said that “Home” has stirred strong emotions. “I think everybody related to it, regardless of whether they were raised in the country or city, because everybody has a home in their memory,” he said.

Interestingly, the song rose to the top of all three major country format charts that were in existence at the time, marking the first time in chart history that a country singer’s debut single had done so. It also peaked at No. 1 on the Canadian RPM Country.

6. “Not Too Much to Ask”

From: Come On Come On (1992)

Joe Diffie teamed up with the talented country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter for this breathtaking collaboration. Though you might think these two are not the most natural duet partners, the singers’ different backgrounds and vocal styles make this an unforgettable track.

With Carpenter’s measured delivery and breathy vocal tone, she starts the song playing her part as the reserved Ivy League-educated folkie before Diffie barrels in with his commanding, twangy vocals. It’s a clashing transition, but once they hit the chorus, the harmonies are both wonderful and distinctive. 

“Not Too Much to Ask,” written by Carpenter and Don Schlitz, helped Diffie earn a nomination for a 1993 Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

5. “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)”

From: Honky Tonk Attitude (1993)

This song, which tells the story of a man’s final wishes, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks. The man in the song elaborates his wish to have his body placed against a jukebox should he die, so that he will still be in a familiar environment after his death.

“Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” was even made more famous, thanks to its comical music video where it starts with two men smuggling a fully dressed male corpse out of a funeral home. They went on to take it out for a night on the town. As the fun night’s about to end, the corpse has now been abandoned, wearing a party hat and sunglasses, propped up next to the jukebox. 

Diffie walked up to the corpse afterward, telling him that, since the bar is closing, he must leave – adding, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

4. “Pickup Man”

From: Regular Joe (1992)

Ask any truck drivers, and they’ll likely say that “Pickup Man” is one of the best truck songs in country music history. It excels for two reasons, songwriters Howard Perdew and Kerry Kurt Phillips’ perfected wordplay, and of course, Joe Diffie’s charming delivery. 

It became Diffie’s signature song, spending four consecutive weeks at No. 1. 

3. “Ships That Don’t Come In”

From: Regular Joe (1992)

“Ships That Don’t Come In” is remembered as Diffie’s most meaningful ballad. This Joe Diffie song pays tribute to those who don’t make it back home from service, or those who simply die too young. The song also recognizes the families of those men and women. 

Written by Paul Nelson, Dave Gibson, and Julian Williams, “Ships That Don’t Come In” deserves to be one of the best of 90s story songs.

2. “Honky Tonk Attitude”

From: Honky Tonk Attitude (1993)

Joe Diffie wrote this uptempo song with Lee Bogan and released in 1993 as the lead single and title track from his album of the same name. By then, the country superstar had established his rowdy presence with great barroom beats made for line dancing. So it was no longer a surprise when the song reached the top five of the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and peaked at No. 11 on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart.

“Honky Tonk Attitude” describes what goes on in a honky tonk on a Friday night, where everyone goes dancing their blues away.

1. “John Deere Green”

From: Honky Tonk Attitude (1993)

Released as the third single from Diffie’s Honky Tonk Attitude album, the song peaked at No. 5 on the country charts.

This moderate up-tempo song tells the tale of a young man named Billy Bob, who fell in love with a young woman named Charlene. Both met during their high school days in the 1960s and then came one late summer night when Billy Bob hauled a can of “John Deere green” paint to the top of a water tower. He painted the words “Billy Bob loves Charlene,” along with an outline of a heart, on the tower, to profess his love towards Charlene.

As the song went on, it was revealed that the young couple finally settled on an eighty-acre farm, “raising sweet corn, kids, and tomatoes. They went together like a hand and a glove.”

After news of Diffie’s passing was made public, tributes from grief-stricken fans and artists immediately came in pouring. And since traditional funeral service for Diffie would not be possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, friends and neighbors still found a way to honor the country singer while also adhering to the practice of social distancing.

Those who loved and cared about Diffie had a parade instead. They gathered in his neighborhood in Nolensville, Tennessee, to host a drive-by parade in their respective tractors, trucks, and cars. Of course, there were a lot of John Deere tractors to be seen. After all, “John Deere Green” is one of Diffie’s biggest hits. 

Joe Diffie is survived by his wife, Tara Diffie, and seven children from four marriages.


Joe Diffie

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