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Country Music Hall of Famer Jim Ed Brown Dead at 81

Jim Ed Brown, a star on the "Grand Ole Opry" radio program for more than a half-century, died on Thursday night aged 81.
/ Source: Reuters

NASHVILLE - Jim Ed Brown, a star on the "Grand Ole Opry" radio program for more than a half-century, died Thursday aged 81.

Brown passed away at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, Tennessee, after a long battle with lung cancer, according to Webster Public Relations.

Bobby Bare, who produced some of Brown's work and was a long-time friend, told Reuters: "He had class and he had style and he had a great voice ... He was a real artist."

Brown is set to be inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame this fall.

"Fame is fleeting, hit records change every week, award show winners and nominees change every year, but being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame will be forever," the ailing singer said after learning of the honor.

Jim Ed Brown during a Country Music Hall of Fame dinner party for friends and family in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 25.RICK DIAMOND

Brown was raised on his family's farm in Sparkman, Arkansas. After a talent competition brought him to the attention of a Little Rock radio station — he didn't win — he and his sister Maxine broke through with their self-penned Top 10 hit "Looking Back to See."

The pair then partnered with their sister Bonnie and formed The Browns', whose harmonies produced numerous hits, including the honey-smooth classic "The Three Bells."

After the sisters retired, Brown continued as a solo artist and wrote his trademark hit "Pop a Top," which was later redone by Alan Jackson.

With duet partner Helen Cornelius, he continued to produce hits like "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You."