Jimmy Dean died Sunday of natural causes in his home in Virginia. He was 81.
This was a man of many, many talents. As a country singer, he was best known for his Grammy-winning hit, "Big Bad John." He hosted The Jimmy Dean Show and, later, guest hosted the The Tonight Show. He acted in television shows and movies including the 1971 James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever. And, of course, he was probably most famous for his breakfast sausage, launching the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company in 1969.
Mr. Dean was the sausage spokesperson at his business from its inception until 2003 when Sara Lee, which had bought the company in 1984, chose not to renew his contract. The split seemed the opposite of amiable, with Dean accusing the company of letting him go because he was "too old." Sara Lee simply said it had chosen to take the brand in a different direction (is that when we started getting those sun and thunder commercials?).
Nevertheless, Jimmy's Dean legacy will live on. He is being inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in October.
R.I.P., Jimmy Dean.