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In Memoriam: Country Stars We Lost in 2014

A pop-country icon and the International Ambassador of Country Music were just a few of the legendary singers who died in 2014

George Hamilton IV

George Hamilton IV

Getty

This year saw the loss of not just some of the greatest singers in country music, but also some of the most notable songwriters and torchbearers of the genre. The Grand Ole Opry lost a couple of its regular performers; Music Row said goodbye to some talented tunesmiths; and the world is now without an "Ambassador of Country Music." We look back at the iconic careers of some of the top country musicians who passed away in 2014.

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Bob Montgomery

Texas-born performer, writer, producer and music publisher Bob Montgomery lost his battle with Parkinson's disease at age 77. Montgomery was paired with future rock icon Buddy Holly in a country and rockabilly duo, writing several songs recorded by Holly and his band, the Crickets, as well as tunes for Patsy Cline and Eddy Arnold, among others. One of his best-known compositions, "Misty Blue," was a pop, R&B and country hit recorded most famously by Dorothy Moore and Wilma Burgess. In 1968, Montgomery produced the hugely popular "Honey," by Bobby Goldsboro, and oversaw the country division of the United Artists label. His publishing company, House of Gold, was responsible for such massive hits as "Behind Closed Doors" by Charlie Rich and "Wind Beneath My Winds," a country hit for Gary Morris and a pop smash for Bette Midler.

Paul Craft

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

Paul Craft

Paul Craft, who wrote such country classics as "Dropkick Me Jesus," for Bobby Bare, "Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life," recorded by Moe Bandy, and the Mark Chesnutt hit "Brother Jukebox," died October 18th, shortly after celebrating his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Born in Memphis and raised in Arkansas, Craft scored his earliest hits for Skeeter Davis and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Others who have recorded his songs include Ray Stevens, Gail Davies, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson and dozens of bluegrass acts such as Claire Lynch, Larry Sparks and the Osborne Brothers. In the 1970s, Craft also recorded several albums of his own. An independent spirit, he rarely co-wrote and also self-published most of his songs. Craft was 76.

Jesse Winchester

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Jesse Winchester Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Mick Hutson/Getty

Jesse Winchester

Since the early Seventies, Jesse Winchester quietly maintained a career as a graceful, introspective singer-songwriter whose tunes would be recorded by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, the Everly Brothers and James Taylor. Many of his best-known compositions ("Mississippi You're on My Mind," "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz," "Biloxi") were tales of aching homesickness from the Southern-born musician who, after dodging the Vietnam War draft in 1967, was exiled to Canada for a decade until he received amnesty and was allowed to return to home. His 1978 song “A Showman's Life” has been covered over the years by George Strait, Buddy Miller, Gary Allan and, most recently, by Chris Carmack (Will Lexington) on ABC's Nashville. Winchester's stunning, posthumous studio album, recorded in the year before he died, was released in September. Winchester was 69.

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