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Singer, TV Pitchman and Cinematic Hero Slim Whitman Dead at 90

Slim Whitman
Evening Standard, Getty Images

Slim Whitman, a country singer who found new, inventive ways to gain fame in five different decades, has died.

The ‘Rose Marie’ and ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You’ singer was known in his later years for a distinguished look and television commercials that became a frequent target for talk show host Johnny Carson. In 1996, his music saved the world in the movie ‘Mars Attacks!’

Whitman’s yodeling in songs like ‘Indian Love Call’ may be how he’s best remembered, musically. With a thin, black mustache, he was very popular in Europe and an omnipresent character on television in the ’80s. The two-minute long commercials helped him sell millions of records, including four million of ‘All My Best,’ his album from 1979.

Whitman’s career started in the 1940s, and he recorded several hit songs including ‘Secret Love,’ ‘More Than Yesterday’ and ‘Guess Who’ throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. He was signed to RCA Records by Col. Tom Parker, who would later become Elvis Presley’s manager. In fact, Whitman gave the King of rock n’ roll a pep talk early in his career.

His well-rehearsed yodeling characterized his music. In 1991, he told the Associated Press he was always working to keep his voice in shape. “It’s like a prize fighter,” he said. “He knows he has a fight coming up, so he gets in the gym and trains. So when I have a show coming up, I practice yodeling.”

Whitman’s television commercials were a favorite of Carson‘s. He even did a Slim Whitman look-alike contest one year. Whitman recorded one final album in 2010 (and 65 during his life), but his most recognizable post-80s moment came during the 1996 film ‘Mars Attacks!’ It was a Slim Whitman song (‘Indian Love Call’) that caused the martians’ heads to explode, saving the world.

Whitman’s death was prematurely reported in 2008. He responded to the rumors — which included an emotional tribute by friend and fellow singer George Hamilton — by saying, “I can still sing. If you are dead, you can’t sing” (quote via the Florida Union-Times).

According to the AP, Whitman — real name Otis Dewey Whitman — died at the age of 90 after his heart failed at the Orange Park Medical Center in Miami, Fla. He leaves behind a son named Byron and daughter named Sharon. His wife, Jerry, died in 2009. They were married for 67 years.

Next: See All Country Stars Who've Died in 2013

Watch Slim Whitman’s ‘Best Loved Favorites’ Commercial

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