Stars Cash, Ritter Die

The entertainment world received a double shock today, with the deaths of country music giant Johnny Cash and comic actor John Ritter.

Cash, a singer and songwriter, whose work sparked a revival of American country and western music, died early today of complications from diabetes, according to officials at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. He was 71.

Cash, who suffered the loss of his beloved wife June Carter Cash in May, had been hospitalized for two weeks with an unspecified stomach ailment, but had been released from Baptist Hospital in Nashville on Wednesday.

Ritter was an Emmy Award-winning actor who gained fame playing bumbling and lovable characters in a pair of television comedies decades apart.

(To read about how Ritter's romp on Three's Company changed TV, click here.)

He died suddenly due to a previously undetected arterial problem, his representatives said today. He was 54.

The Man in Black

With songs about life's troubles and society's outcasts, Cash, known as "The Man in Black," had an appeal that reached traditional country music fans.

"His resonant voice and human compassion reached the hearts and souls of generations, and he will be missed," said President Bush, a Texas native.

"Laura joins me in sending our thoughts and prayers to his family."

An 11-time Grammy winner and six-time winner of Country Music Association awards, the talented artist had success as a solo artist, as part of a duet, as the leader of a trio, and as a part of the award-winning Highwaymen quartet.

He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

His most recent Grammy came this year, when he received the award for best male country vocal performance for "Give My Love To Rose."

Even at 71 he was still connecting with young music fans. He was nominated for awards in seven categories for last month's MTV Video Music Awards, and received the award for best cinematography for the video of his cover of "Hurt," a Nine Inch Nails song.

To read more about the life of Johnny Cash, click here.

Missed Company

Ritter, the son of country music legend Tex Ritter, came to fame in the 1970s comedy Three's Company, and found himself a new hit with 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, an ABC television comedy.

He collapsed Thursday night, while filming an episode of the comedy, and was taken to Providence St. Joseph hospital in Burbank, Calif., across the street from the studio.

Ritter's publicist, Lisa Kasteler, said the cause of death was a dissection of the aorta, the result of an unrecognized flaw in his heart.

Though he is most associated with the two sitcom roles, he also appeared in films and more than 25 TV movies and was a prolific stage actor, having appeared in more than 50 plays nationwide. His recent nine-month role in the Broadway premiere of Neil Simon's The Dinner Party brought him critical acclaim.

To read more about the life of John Ritter, click here.

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