01/12/1998 at 12:00 AM EST

Hoyt Axton, 61, a folksy baritone, songwriter and actor who wrote Three Dog Night's No. 1 hit "Joy to the World" and songs that were performed by artists from Elvis Presley to Ringo Starr, Tuesday, at his Montana ranch, surrounded by family and friends. He had suffered a heart attack two weeks ago and another during surgery. He also had never fully recovered from a 1996 stroke and used a wheelchair much of the time.

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