Fan Tributes Joe Diffie 1 Year After Death in “John Deere Green”

Joe Diffie, aka The Pickup Man, The Mulleted One, The Everyman of Country Music, died one year ago Monday (3-29), becoming not just the first high-profile death in country music due to COVID-19 complications, but the first high-profile death in all of music.

Though some marked the anniversary by leaving remembrances on social media or perhaps spinning Joe Diffie tunes—especially his poignant “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)”—one enterprising fan in Old Hickory, Tennessee decided to make life imitate art and reenact the story from one of Diffie’s most famous songs by scaling the town’s water tower, and painting “Billy Bob + Charlene” at the top of it in John Deere green.

The inspiration for the gonzo art comes from the song “John Deere Green,” which was a Top 5 for Diffie in 1993. The song goes,

“They climbed upon the water tower
Stood on the rail and painted a ten foot heart
In John Deere green, on a hot summer night
He wrote “Billy Bob loves Charlene” in letters three foot high
And the whole town said that he should’ve used red
But it looked good to Charlene
In John Deere green”

Nobody has fessed up to the potentially illegal maneuver, but the Joe Diffie estate has acknowledged it, saying “To the artist brave enough to climb the water tower, thank you for the tribute! (We do not want people to risk their safety) I do however hope this is kept by the county.” After all, in the song written by Dennis Lindle, the bridge goes,

Now more than once the town has discovered
Painting over it ain’t no use
There ain’t no paint in the world that’ll cover it
The heart keeps showing through

Though his stint in the spotlight of commercial country was short, few burned as bright as Joe Diffie in the mid 90’s, with his music becoming synonymous with the era. Five #1 hits, and thirteen Top 5 songs were charted by Diffie in just five years, and were capped off by his 1994 Platinum-certified record Third Rock From The Sun. With his unmistakable mullet and easy attitude, he became a relatable star compared to some of the bigger arena acts of the era. His mix of novelty songs along with sincere ballads brought him a wide audience.

The success Joe Diffie enjoyed was somewhat overshadowed by other superstars in his time, but while the greater country music public was eating up Garth Books, Joe Diffie was the guy middle America couldn’t get enough of. It was stories like the one in “John Deere Green” that so many small town folks could relate to that made Joe Diffie more than just a country star. He was a fixture in many lives, just like the water towers that dot small town U.S.A.

“I’ll be the life of the party even when I’m dead and gone,” Joe Diffie sang in the song “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die).” And it’s proven to be true.

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