Mel Tillis, whose career spanned performing, songwriting, movies and television, has died after a long battle with his health. He was 85 years old.

Tillis died at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Fla., early Sunday morning (Nov. 19). The Country Music Hall of Famer had battled intestinal issues ever since he was hospitalized in 2016 after undergoing colon surgery, and he never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure, according to a press release from his publicist.

He wrote hits for Brenda Lee and Ray Price, and parlayed that success into a recording contract with Columbia Records, scoring his first Top 40 hit with “The Violet and a Rose” in 1958. He continued to have more success as a songwriter, including the Kenny Rogers and the First Edition classic

Tillis is survived by six children: songwriter Mel “Sonny” Tillis, Jr.; singer-songwriter Pam Tillis; Carrie April Tillis; Connie Tillis; Cindy Tillis; and Hannah Tillis; six grandchildren; a great grandson; a sister, Linda Crosby, and brother Richard Tillis; the mother of five of his children, Doris Tillis; and his longtime partner, Kathy DeMonaco.

The family are asking for prayers at this time. News regarding funeral services in Florida and Nashville is to be announced.

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