An influence on the generation that came after him, he had been celebrated in song by both Jason Aldean (“1994) and Chris Young (“Raised On Country”). Aldean took to Instagram to mourn the Diffie's loss, saying, "This guy was an amazing singer and an even greater person. Such a sad week for the country music world. Joe was always so much fun to be around and I will never forget our Panama City show with Tyler Farr and Tracy Lawrence...We will miss u my friend."
In addition to his success as a performer, the Tulsa native was also a successful songwriter, penning hits for artists like Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty and Jo Dee Messina.
Diffie's life seemed almost like something out of a country song. Raised in a musical family, he contemplated a career in medicine before working in the oil industry during the oil boom and then a foundry, all the while working as a musician on the side and practicing his songwriting. After the foundry closed, Diffie declared bankruptcy and divorced his first wife.
In the late '80s, he moved to Nashville and worked as a songwriters before signing with Epic Records in 1990. Diffie's strong, often twangy, vocals resonating immediately with fans as first single, "Home" soared to No. 1 on Hot Country Songs.
During the '90s country music explosion, Diffie had a prime place as he scored hit after hit and delivered some of the era's most amusing videos as well, for such songs as "If the Devil Danced (With Empty Pockets)" and "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (When I Die)."
Diffie's last No. 1 on Hot Country Songs was 1995's "Bigger than the Beatles," but he continued to score hits on the chart through 2004 with "Tougher Than Nails," which peaked at No. 19. In 2018, he released "I Got This," though the song did not chart.
He continued to maintain a steady touring slate and had 2020 dates through the rest of the year.