Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hits and Humanitarianism for Country Music Star Joe Diffie

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hits and Humanitarianism for Country Music Star Joe Diffie

Article excerpt

Laid off from an Oklahoma iron foundry in the mid-1980s, a pre-stardom Joe Diffie imagined realigning a few spinal columns.

"My plan at the time was to go back to college and finish my education and maybe be a chiropractor or something," Diffie said from his home in Nashville. "But as it turned out, it didn't work out that way because I had ample time to sit around and think about what I was going to do."

He decided instead to become a country music star. And so he did.

Diffie, who will perform at this year's Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair, released nine albums in nine years and amassed more than 5 million in career record sales. He also co-wrote a handful of songs on several albums, including four on his most recent release, A Night to Remember. He did not, however, write two of his biggest hits, Pickup Man (which was later used in Ford truck advertisements) and John Deere Green (about a man painting a green love note on a small-town water tower). To Diffie's surprise, those songs and 1993's Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox remain his most-requested hits.

"I'm just imagining myself being 60 years old singing John Deere Green," he said with a laugh. "It just kind of strikes me as funny, you know, instead of Ships That Don't Come In or Is It Cold In Here or some of those big ballads."

His fans may choose his older honky-tonk romps as their favorite songs, but the recording industry has given Diffie accolades for another reason -- his humanitarianism.

In 1997, the Country Radio Broadcasters voted Diffie the "Humanitarian of the Year," for his philanthropic work. Over the past eight years, Diffie has raised more than $600,000 for First Steps, a charity he founded to help disabled children. Diffie's 11-year-old son, Tyler, was born with Down Syndrome.

"I didn't know anything about Down Syndrome until I had Tyler," Diffie said. "So it just kind of brought it to the forefront for me."

Despite countless meetings, benefit concerts and fund-raisers, Diffie's charity work hasn't kept him out of the studio. He has another new album due out early next year. Long-time fans shouldn't expect any big departures. …

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