Jimmie Rodgers, 'Kisses Sweeter Than Wine' singer, dies of kidney disease at 87
The star's rendition of Bob Merrill's "Honeycomb" became his biggest hit and charted for four weeks.
Legendary pop singer Jimmie Rodgers (né James Charles Rodgers) has died. He was 87.
The star died from kidney disease on Jan. 18 and had previously tested positive for COVID-19, per the Associated Press. A rep for Rodgers did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Born in Washington state on Sept. 8, 1933, he first gained popularity in the '50s and '60s after releasing Billboard hits including "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" and his rendition of mega-hit song "Honeycomb." Rodgers first developed an interest in music as a young child after he learned from his mom, a piano teacher.
During his time in the U.S. Air Force, Rodgers joined a band called the Melodies but was later transferred to Nashville, where he was stationed at Seward Air Force Base from 1954 to 1956. In Nashville, he competed on Arthur Godfrey's CBS talent show and won $700, a hefty sum at the time. He was signed with Roulette Records soon after and recorded his own version of "Honeycomb" in 1957. Written by Bob Merrill and originally recorded by Georgie Shaw, the track became Rodgers' biggest hit — having charted for four weeks. It sold more than one million copies and went gold with the RIAA.
The singer continued releasing fan-favorite tracks including "Oh-Oh, I'm Falling in Love Again," "Secretly" and "Are You Really Mine?" in the years to come.
Rodgers' unique music style landed him spots on Billboard's pop singles, hot country and western sides and hot rhythm and blues sides charts. He received his first songwriting credits as Jimmie F. Rodgers (to differentiate himself from another singer with the same first and last name). The star appeared in films including The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come and Back Door to Hell and his music landed him several TV performances on variety shows.
But things took a turn in 1967, when he was mysteriously found inside of his car on a Los Angeles highway with severe injuries to his head and more.
To date, it is still unclear what happened to the star. "I rolled the window down to ask what was the matter [and] that's the last thing I remember, " he told the Toronto Star two decades later in 1987, per the AP. Ultimately, the injuries (which authorities alleged were a result of a fall while Rodgers was drunk) led him to develop a condition which caused spasms in his voice box muscles. He also began suffering occasional seizures.
In 1969, Rodgers made his big TV return with his own summer variety on ABC. With much success, his music continued to reign on the Billboard Country and Easy Listening charts until '79, with some of his popular songs were featured in commercials.
Most recently in 2016, Rodgers revealed the moment he realized he wanted to pursue music for the rest of his life. "We were sitting on the floor with only candles for light, and these tough soldiers had tears running down their cheeks," he told Utah newspaper The Spectrum of his time in the the military. "I realized if my music could have that effect, that's what I wanted to do with my life.
Rodgers is survived by his wife Mary Louise Biggerstaff and his children.
This story originally appeared on people.com