The Tennessee Department of Health has revealed that “acute combined drug toxicity” was the cause of death of Americana singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who died in August at age 38.
The news was confirmed by Earle’s estate management, Team JTE, which posted on Facebook: “Next to alcohol and cocaine, the autopsy report revealed traces of fentanyl indicating that that usage of fentanyl-laced cocaine resulted in an overdose.”
Team JTE added: “Even though Justin was very outspoken and concerned about the opioid epidemic and the dangers of the ‘legal’ drugs fed by the pharmaceutical companies, he became the victim of a deadly dose of fentanyl. Illicit drugs laced with fentanyl are causing an enormous rise in overdoses, turning cocaine usage into an even deadlier habit. It only takes a few salt-sized granules of fentanyl to cause an overdose. And in most cases, happens so fast that intervention likely could not reverse it.”
The post concluded with a cautionary message: “Addiction is a disease and there are many avenues and treatments to become and stay free from alcohol and drug usage. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance addiction please know that you’re not alone and reach out for help. Don’t lose hope.”
Earle, the son of Steve Earle, struggled with drug and alcohol abuse since he was young. He started playing music as a teenager and was a member of his father’s band before launching a successful solo career. His last album The Saint of Lost Causes, released in 2019, received critical acclaim.
Steve Earle and his band The Dukes will next month release an album featuring covers of his son’s music. Titled JT, the proceeds will go to a trust for Justin’s daughter Etta St. James. A single, covering Justin’s most popular song “Harlem River Blues,” has already been released.
Steve said last month: “I loved Justin Townes Earle more than anything else on this earth. That being said, I made this record, like every other record I’ve ever made. . . for me. It was the only way I knew to say goodbye.”