Larry W. Johnson, one-half of the songwriting team behind Tim McGraw’s signature ballad “Don’t Take the Girl,” has died at the age of 69. He's remembered as a friend to all.

The Kentucky native had several health issues in recent years, including cancer, COPD and an aortic aneurysm. A GoFundMe set up to help with funeral expenses notes that he had two aortic aneurysm operations this year alone. His obituary at the Cheatham County Funeral Home also mentions how he chose sobriety 11 years ago, after being on the brink of death.

“Don’t Take the Girl” became a No. 1 hit for McGraw in May 1994 and has remained a favorite of the singer and his fans. The ballad’s opening lyrics, "Johnny’s daddy was taking him fishing / When he was eight years old" set up a circle-of-life love story in three parts. CMT pointed out in 2019 that the song pivoted him from "Indian Outlaw," a rowdier country-rocker with considerably less depth, toward a career as a truly dynamic country hitmaker. Showing his lasting appreciation for the song, McGraw remade it with newcomer Blanco Brown in 2019.

A private family funeral will be held in Ashland City, Tenn., with a celebration of life coming later. Johnson leaves behind wife Becky, four sons, one daughter and nine grandchildren, plus a brother and three sisters. He died on June 12, 2020. Craig Martin, the other writer on "Don't Take the Girl," first alerted Taste of Country to Johnson's death.

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