Country singer and songwriter Luke Bell has died, just over one week after he disappeared during a trip to Arizona. He was 32.
Bell’s friend and fellow musician, Matt Kinman, confirmed the tragic news to the Saving Country Music blog on Tuesday, August 39, just hours after new broke that the “Where Ya Been” singer had gone missing. According to the outlet, Bell — who had bipolar disorder — went missing in Tuscon, Arizona, on August 20, when he seemingly vanished while Kinman was grabbing something to eat. His body was discovered near his last known location nine days later.
An official cause of death has not yet been reported.
After the news broke, several of Bell’s contemporaries shared their condolences on social media. “Goddamn, rest east to our dear friend, Luke Bell 💔,” Margo Price wrote via Twitter on Tuesday, August 30.
Joshua Hedley shared similar sentiments on his own account: “Man … Luke Bell … what the f–k. RIP to a real one,” he wrote. “Been a long time since I saw him and I was just talking about him the other day wondering what he’s been up to. Truly a sad night for country music.”
Country band Mike and the Moonpies also remembered the late musician via Facebook. “Word just came down on the passing of Luke Bell and we’re heartbroken over the news,” they wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “I can vividly remember the first time I met Luke at Hole in the Wall over a decade ago, down to the clothes on his back. The man (and his music) left an impression. He was a real deal traveling troubadour out there on that lost highway. Do yourself a favor and put on some Luke Bell tunes tonight in his memory. Rest In Peace, friend.”
After forming a band in college and spending years performing in honky-tonks and bars, the Wyoming native earned critical acclaim following the release of his 2016 debut album. Often compared to iconic country artists like Waylon Jennings, Bell soon earned gigs supporting Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam and worked with some of Nashville’s biggest names over the course of his career.
“To be honest, I live in the day, and I count smiles,” Bell told The Boot in a 2016 interview. “That’s it. Listen, half the time, I end up drinking beer with my neighbors. Life’s not that bad. The downside, in some ways, is I don’t have a wife and kids, but at the same time, it’s pretty ideal right now. I just travel around to other cities and hang out with other people … The goal is to have high hopes and low expectations and have a good time.”
Despite his success — and returning to the studio to record a follow-up album that same year — Bell quickly disappeared from the spotlight as he battled mental illness. After years of erratic behavior and multiple stays in the hospital or jail, Kinman told Saving Country Music that Bell had begun making progress in the past year and a half, thanks to a new medication and treatment plan.
Bell released his final single, “Jealous Guy,” in January 2021.
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