On This Day: Waylon Jennings Passed Away in 2002

by Emily Morgan

On this day, 19 years ago, the world lost a legend unlike any other. On Feb. 13, 2002, country music fans everywhere mourned the tragic loss of Waylon Jennings when he passed away at 64-years-old.

Jennings passed away at home after suffering complications from diabetes.

Born and raised in Littlefield, Texas, Jennings found his passion for music from his mother. At just eight-years-old, he began playing the guitar. When he was 12, Jennings had landed a weekly radio show on a local radio station. At 16, Jennings decided to leave high school to focus on his music. While working various jobs, he worked as a DJ and continued to showcase his music on the air.

Jennings quickly earned his reputation as a genuine country outlaw singer and teamed up with other legends such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson to form their group, called The Highwaymen.

Over his decades-long career, Jennings helped create the outlaw movement so many fans praise today. Besides his incredible songwriting and singing ability, his music offered refuge to those who felt like they couldn’t relate to the popular music at the time.

Waylon Jennings & His Outlaw Movement

Jennings took the road less traveled in Nashville when he publicly disavowed and traded pop country music for the hard-drinking “honky-tonk” style of country music. While it’s not always pretty, it’s brutally honest and authentic.

His song, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” was Jennings’ poetically described condemnation of the pop-country sound that took over at the time.

“Waylon was a dear friend, one of the very best of 35 years. I’ll miss him immensely,” Johnny Cash said at the time of his death.

Over the years, Jennings made a name for himself with hits like “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” “Luckenbach, Texas,” “Good-Hearted Woman,” and the theme from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

While Jennings enjoyed one of the most successful careers in country music history, his life behind the scenes remained tumultuous. He endured a lengthy battle with drugs and alcohol but overcame his addictions after seeking help.

In October of 2001, the Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Jennings as a member, but two months later, he had his left foot amputated due to his diabetes.

Jennings passed away in his sleep at his home and was survived by his wife, Jessi Colter, and son, Shooter Jennings.