His wife, Donna Meade Dean, said her husband died at their Henrico County, Va., home.
She told The Associated Press that he had some health problems but was still functioning well, so his death came as a shock. She said he was eating in front of the television. She left the room for a time and came back and he was unresponsive. She said he was pronounced dead at 7:54 p.m.
Dean was 81. Dean is a Country Music Hall of Fame member, a former television program host and a Grammy winner. Though I knew him first and foremost as a man with a taste for sausage, there was something tangible about his commercial appearances that was so appealing. When practically every other quick food type item ad went for the lowest common denominator, Dean presented an image of a down-to-earth, simple American in all its glory and wonderful cliches.
Yet, even in a 30-second spot, Dean’s sincerity evoked a certain magnetism that was somehow refreshingly un-cliche. His music no doubt had the same appeal for the many individuals who made “Big Bad John” a chart-topping success, and what made him a name worthy of recognition. I’ll be sure to toast my next sausage roast to Jimmy Dean: I hope the rest of you will too.