Troy Gentry A life to be proud of. “Rock Heaven… Oh Hell Yeah!”

troy-gentry2Singer Troy Gentry, of country music group Montgomery Gentry, died in a helicopter crash in New Jersey on Friday, the band’s website said. The singer was 50.

Details of the crash, which occurred in Medford township were not immediately known, the band said in a statement. Medford police did not immediately respond to a request for information on the crash.

Gentry was due to perform with his bandmate Eddie Montgomery on Friday evening at the Flying W Airport and Resort in Medford. Singer Montgomery did not appear to be involved in the incident.

When Montgomery Gentry, the duo made up of Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, released their first album, Tattoos & Scars, in 1999, very little was known about the two men other than they were both from Kentucky and that Montgomery was the younger brother of ’90s superstar John Michael Montgomery.

But over the past 17 years, Montgomery Gentry have became one of the most successful acts in country music, selling millions of albums, charting more than 25 songs and ending Brooks & Dunn‘s eight-year run as the reigning CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year in 2000.

While Montgomery Gentry have far too many hits to list, SPY has pulled together our picks for our Top Tunes.

“If You Ever Stop Loving Me”

“If You Ever Stop Loving Me” was the debut single from Montgomery Gentry’s fourth studio album, and their first No. 1 hit. Written by hitmakers Rivers Rutherford, Tom Shapiro and Bob DiPiero, the song promises that any storm can be weathered as long as romance stays alive.

“I think Rivers and Tom and I were totally in the same place when we sat down to write this song,” DiPiero told The Boot. “We’re really unique individuals, and to have a wife and someone who gives day in and day out … we realized how lucky we are. I think we were all in that same universal space of ‘I’m all right, I’m okay / Ain’t nothing but another day / But only God knows where I’d be / If you ever stop loving me.’

“Roll With Me”

Neither of the Montgomery Gentry guys wrote “Roll With Me” — the song was penned by Gary Hannan, Phil O’Donnell and Trent Willmon — but they both felt like the message of the song was one they could relate to. The pair knew that they could easily sing the lyrics “Back when a pitcher of beer and a couple shots made me bulletproof / Back when God was a name I used in vain to get a point across when I got ticked off / Lord, I’m learning so much more / Than back when I knew it all” every night.

“When we heard the song, we knew it was a hit for Montgomery Gentry off the bat,” Gentry says. “A buddy of ours, Trent Willmon, a writer on that song, brought the song to us and we just kinda knew it was a hit. In listening to the song, it just reminds us of the days growing up — it reminded me of all the do’s and don’ts coming from Mom and Dad — you know, the path of life that shoulda been taken.”

“Lucky Man”

Montgomery Gentry wrote this song together, along with Rutherford and Mark Wright. The song, which features lines such as, “I got supper in the oven, a good woman’s loving / And one more day to be my little kid’s dad / Lord knows I’m a lucky man,” encourages focusing on the good parts of life, even among the trials — and apparently it’s a song that resonated with listeners. “Lucky Man” stayed at the top of the charts for two weeks and earned Montgomery Gentry their only Grammy nomination to date, for Best Country Vocal Performance By a Duo or Group.

“Hell Yeah”

A song bound to get the crowd on their feet — or at least be turned up loud on the radio — “Hell Yeah” summarizes what fans love about Montgomery Gentry. It features lyrics such as “Hell yeah / Turn it up / Right on / Hell yeah / Sounds good / Sing that song / Guitar man playin’ all night long / Take me back to where the music hit me / Life was good and love was easy” and includes a chorus of people chanting “hell yeah!” that was recorded at least in part by employees at MG’s then-record label, Columbia Nashville.

“Speed”

Written by Jeffrey Steele and Chris Wallin, “Speed” was driven into the Top 5 in part by its attention-getting video. Directed by Trey Fanjoy, Montgomery Gentry sang the song for the video while standing on a two-lane road in the middle of the night.

“Something to Be Proud Of”

This is the song that sums up everything Montgomery Gentry believes in, and it’s authenticity paid off: It became their second chart-topping single. “Something to Be Proud Of” says, in part, “You don’t need to make a million / Just be thankful to be workin’ / If you’re doing what you’re able / And putting food there on the table / And providing for the family that you love / That’s something to be proud of,” hearkening back to Montgomery and Gentry’s blue-collar roots, which have served as their inspiration for much of their career. “Something to Be Proud Of” was also the title track of the duo’s first compilation album, Something to Be Proud Of: 1999-2005.

troy-gentryCountry music stars paid tribute to Gentry on social media on Friday, including Sheryl Crow, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton, who tweeted an old photo of himself and Gentry, saying he was “heart broken”. Singer Brad Paisley tweeted, “God bless you Troy Gentry. Heartbroken and in disbelief”.

Kentucky band Montgomery Gentry formed in 1999 and scored hits such as “She Couldn’t Change Me” and “If You Ever Stop Loving Me” across eight studio albums.

The band has won awards from both the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association, and has been inducted into Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

Montgomery Gentry released its most recent album, “Folks Like Us” in 2015.

fc4f8260bdd00b98e1e454a167113fd4As tributes pour in for Troy Gentry following his tragic death in a helicopter crash, one friend is remembering the Montgomery Gentry singer’s powerful presence both on and off the stage.

“Nobody loved life more than Troy Gentry,” music journalist and author Holly Gleason tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Whatever adventure, all night party or hardcore hillbilly song, he was up for it.”

Gleason, who did publicity for Gentry and bandmate Eddie Montgomery in the early 2000s, last saw her friend Sunday during the band’s set at the Tequila Bay Country Music Festival in Miami.

“He was on that stage, guitars blazing, trading vocals with his partner Eddie — and they made it feel like the biggest party in a place that knows how to party,” Gleason says. “Hot and sweltering as it was, the crowd was up, dancing and yowling and throwing down to ‘Hillbilly Shoes,’ ‘Gone’ and Charlie Daniels’ ‘All Night Long.’”

She adds: “That’s the thing about Troy, it was all in good fun. It all rocked, and it made people feel more dangerous than they were, yet somehow kept them safe as new kittens. To be able to walk that line, maybe it truly does take hillbilly shoes.”

8cfbf3f9df7df2a7f0b504f83e94f6df 63130190The band confirmed in a statement posted to their Facebook page that Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash in Medford, New Jersey at approximately 1 p.m. on Friday at the age of 50. He leaves behind wife Angie and daughters Taylor and Kaylee. The platinum-selling duo was scheduled to perform later that night at the Flying W Airport & Resort in Medford.

Since first breaking onto the scene in 1999 with their debut album Tattoos & Scars, Montgomery Gentry has been representative of the working man with their blue-collar anthems that Montgomery has called “the good, the bad, the ugly and the party on the weekend.”

Montgomery Gentry’s newest album, Folks Like Us, embraces that same message with their songs “That’s Just Living” and “Better For It.”

“[Gentry] understood what it meant to entertain people who worked, and worked hard,” Gleason says. “When they took a stage, they took it. He spent as much time telling the crowd how much they loved them and inviting them to let their hair down as he did selling the duo’s songs.”

Life for the Montgomery Gentry duo wasn’t without it’s ups and downs in both their professional and personal lives, though. Their first record deal ended, but since then they made a home with Blaster Records. In 2010, a now-healthy Montgomery was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Gentry recently announced that his wife, Angie, is successfully undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

But through it all, Gleason says Gentry had a “smile that was blazing.”

“You could almost see it from the other side of the door, and he knew how to use it,” she continues. “Whether it was undoing some kind of annoyance for missing a call or making total strangers feel welcome, Troy understood the power of those pearly whites.”

One of country music’s most recognizable duos, Montgomery Gentry was nominated for a Grammy in 2008 and inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009. Their music was far reaching, too — in 2007, Maya Angelou invited them to open for her when she played at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Though she recognized that the band was much different from her, she called them her “sons.”

14866678_G“I reckon we’re like a married couple, sort of,” Montgomery said of more than 20 years together in a 2013 interview with the Des Moines Register. “You hear horror stories all the time about duos, but we’ve always just been friends having fun and making music.”

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A life to be proud of…… Rock Heaven… Oh Hell Yeah!

 

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