The family of country musician Luke Bell issued a statement Thursday, saying goodbye to their son, brother and friend who they described as man with a “gentle heart and a wanderer’s spirit.”
The statement came nearly a week after Luke Bell was found dead in Tucson, Ariz. He’d been missing for six days. The statement said Bell suffered from mental illness that grew worse after his father died in 2015. He’d disappeared before. Each time, he came home. But not this time.
The statement said:
“We have lost our beloved son, brother and friend and we are heartbroken. Luke had a gentle heart, a wanderer’s spirit and a musical gift that he was fortunate to share with us and the world. We are so grateful to his friends and fans for embracing Luke and his music. We would like to thank all of Luke’s fans, friends and family who have been sharing stories and photos of happy times with him.”
“Unfortunately Luke suffered from the disease of mental illness, which progressed after his father’s death in 2015. Luke was supported through his disease by a community of loving family and friends. Despite this, he was unable to receive the help he needed to ease his pain. Our hearts go out to the millions of people affected by mental illness who, like us, understand the devastating disappointment of a system that consistently fails to provide caring solutions to those who suffer.”
“As we navigate our heartbreak we respectfully ask for privacy to allow us room to grieve and honor his memory. Our only comfort comes in the fact that our Luke is finally free and at peace.”
Luke Bell Opened for Stars Like Willie Nelson and Hank Williams Jr
Luke Bell was only 32. Clayton Edwards, who writes about country music for Outsider, described the artist as a throwback talent who embraced the classic sounds of honky tonk. At the height of his all-too-brief career, Bell opened for superstars like Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and Dwight Yoakam. He did two albums. One was a Luke Bell self-release entitled Don’t Mind if I Do. That was in 2014. Two years later, WME and Thirty Tigers signed Luke Bell for his label debut.
His mental illness interrupted his career more than once. After his label release, Bell went off the grid for about a year. Friends and family say he’d sometimes hop a train and ride to wherever it was headed.
He’d been traveling with Smithsonian Folkways performer Matt Kinman. They’d been in Luke’s hometown in Wyoming. Then they headed to Tucson, Kinman’s hometown. Kinman told the outlet Saving Country Music that he’d gone into a food place to get something to eat. Bell was in the truck. When Kinman returned to the truck, Luke was gone. They were near an area in Tucson where the unhoused gathered to stay.
No cause of death has been revealed. But his family said he’s at peace now, which brings them “some comfort.”