Saturday, March 5, 2016

Remembering Joey Feek

     This is without a doubt the hardest post I have ever had to write.  After a long battle with cancer, Joey Feek has gone home to be with the Lord.  Joey has inspired so many people through her relentless faith through such trying times.  She was a beacon of hope for others in similar situations.  Furthermore, her husband Rory was a shining example of exactly what the vow "for better or worse" means.  We all learned a lot from these two.

     Joey Martin was born in 1975 in Indiana.  She grew up singing classic country songs, most notably Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors".  She moved to Nashville to pursue a solo country career, but it never panned out.  She met and fell in love with an up and coming songwriter named Rory Lee Feek.  Rory was a co-writer on big hits like "A Little More Country Than That" by Easton Corbin and "Some Beach" by Blake Shelton.  They were married in 2002.  Rory had two daughters from a previous marriage, Hopie and Heidi, and he and Joey welcomed their first daughter together, Indiana, in 2014.  The couple, a great singer and a great writer, became a duo and competed on the CMT reality show Can You Duet? in 2008.  They placed third, and it was a strong enough showing to earn them a record deal.  Their first album, The Life Of A Song, produced the hit single "Cheater, Cheater" that gave the duo a national audience.  They never experienced superstardom, as they refused to give in to current trends and stayed traditional. However, they had a top 25 hit with "When I'm Gone" in 2012.  They starred in their own television show, The Joey + Rory Show, on RFD-TV.  The show focused on their family, their small farm, and all of the great opportunities that country music had led them to.  The show proved one thing: this was not your average famous couple.  Their love for each other, for God, and for a simple life outweighed their fame.  They were truly just normal people, who happened to be country stars.  In 2014, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  She fought bravely, but in August 2015, the couple decided to end treatments.  Rory kept fans posted through his blog This Life I Live throughout her final months.  Joey was able to spend time with family, see Indiana open her Christmas presents, and spend Valentine's Day with her husband.  She received well wishes from many musicians, including Bill Gaither and a particularly emotional one from Dolly Parton.  She died on March 4th, 2016.

      Putting into words the impact that Joey + Rory have had on my life is hard.  From the first time I saw them on CMT, I was a fan.  I loved the way that they refused to let fame dictate their personality or their music.  They loved traditional country music, so that's what they sang. Rory's guitar boldly had written across the front "We Miss Country Music".  I knew they were just like me.  When I started dating the girl who would later become my wife, one of the things we would do together was watch The Joey + Rory Show.  I often wondered if it was even possible to find someone who I could love and who could love me in return as much as Joey and Rory loved each other.  I soon found out it was true.  On December 29th 2012, I asked my wife to marry me.  I did so in the front of the Ryman Auditorium during the Grand Ole Opry.  Craig Campbell and I had been communicating on Twitter, and he gave me a shout-out and a chance to ask my bride to marry me in the same building that Johnny and June began their romance.  It was perfect.  Also performing that night was one of our very favorite duos, Joey + Rory.  They were signing autographs after the show, and they congratulated us on our engagement.  We enjoy telling everybody that Joey + Rory were the first two people to offer us well wishes.  When it came time to get married, "Born To Be Your Woman" by Joey + Rory was our wedding song and first dance.  We saw the way that they loved each other, God, and the simple things in life.  We wanted a marriage like that.  We now live on our own little farm similar to Joey and Rory.  We don't have any hit songs on the radio, or any tours coming up, but I like to think that we are still living pretty similarly to Joey and Rory because the fame wasn't what was most important to them.

     When Joey ended her treatment, Rory was right by her side for everything.  In June 2012, my dad suffered a heart attack. He was never the same.  For two years, he required around the clock care and a lot of prayer.  My mom was right by his side, along with my brother, and I think we did a pretty good job of being there for my dad through his hardest time.  I see a lot of my family in how Rory has handled this situation.  I watched my mom pray for my dad every day, and saw my dad (who was never the praying type) tear up and struggle to say amen when she was done.  Even though our world was crumbling, my mom (and my dad) never gave up faith.  In fact, their faith grew.  Joey and Rory did the same thing.  Rather than curse God, they recorded an entire album of hymns.  They thanked God for their time together.  When Joey finally passed away, Rory knew he would miss her deeply, but he was also happy that she was in heaven and free from pain.  When my dad passed away in June 2014, we felt the same way.

      Sometimes there are people who you never really formally know that can influence your life.  Joey + Rory had a lot of parallels to my life.  They didn't even know it, but their lives inspired much of my, my family's, and my wife's lives.  They were there the night I asked my wife to marry me.  They were there for our first dance as husband and wife under the stars in the middle of the Smoky Mountains.  They reminded me of my family through their hard times.  And even in death, Joey is still inspiring us.  What an amazing couple.  What an amazing life Joey Feek lived.  She really did have the American dream.  She found true love, made money doing what she loved, and lived on a farm surrounded by people who loved her.  Most importantly, she had a faith for God that was unwavering, unshakable, and unbeatable.  Losing Joey Feek was a terrible loss for this world, but a great gain for heaven.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Rory, Indiana, Hopie, and Heidi.

Revelation 21:4 - And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

My wife and I with Joey and Rory the night we got engaged at the Ryman Auditorium

"That's Important To Me"

"When I'm Gone"

"Softly And Tenderly"


  1. This was beautiful. There is no other way to describe it.

  2. I hope you don't mind if I add my two cents on this. I read your blog regularly, but you know, living overseas makes really difficult to keep in touch with country music.

    First of all, my prayers and thoughts go to Joey and of course Rory, their families, friends and all the people that were lucky to cross Joey's road in this life.
    I lived something that I can imagine very similar to her tragedy a few years ago with my mother, but I learnt that dealing with sorrow, hope, pain and faith is something so deep and so personal that it's almost impossible to share with others, even if we try over and over again.

    Now the music, my personal thought, my personal memory about Joey Martin.
    I came into one of her early works, surfing the internet, some 6-7 years ago.
    The album I'm talking about is 'Strong Enough to Cry' and well you know, Rory is not beside Joey's name on the cover of that album.

    In that period, I was looking for some new name in my country music addiction, and it was very difficult to find one, expecially a female one, considering that 9 out 10 names so called 'country' turned out to be pop music as soon as I started to listen to.

    That album was different, at least, that was my first impression when I drove home with Joey's music in my car.

    The first song I noticed was 'the cowboy's mine'. I remember I tried to translate the text to my girlfriend and she was not so sure to catch the meaning of the song. Country music was a completely different genre compared to what she was used to listen to, at that time.

    But I loved that song and I appreciated the voice, that voice that in my imagination should be the classic country voice you should expect to hear in a country song.

    The our (my girlfriend and me) story went on, and as she got more and more into my world, she started appreciating country music too. Soon, 'Like a Rodeo' with Paul Overstreet, became one of her favorite songs. And one of mine too, of course. A perfect mix between country music and 'easy listening' for overseas ears, with this rodeo image mixed to everyday life and everyday feelings.

    But to me, the most important songs out of that album, were 'Nothing to Remember' and 'See You There'.

    The first one took me back to the first important story in my life. I imagined my ex-gf singing that song. In my heart, I still hope she could sing something like that. Such a deep lyrics, such a big hurt, such a big effort to turn it into something positive, something to remember.

    The other song, 'See You There', caught my attention one morning driving to workplace. I think I already listened it 10 times but never paid attention to the lyrics.
    That morning I blessed who wrote that song and blessed Joey who sang it in such a special way. I felt it running under the skin and I'm still convinced that it's one of the most beautiful songs ever written about farewells.

    Time has passed since then. Joey Martin became Joey+Rory and you already told about them, both professionally and personally.

    Just in case you have a chance to meet Rory, if you think that it could give him a second of pride, hope, faith, joy, courage or simply a smile, tell him that Joey had a fan in Italy too, and today her songs are even more important for this fan.

    That's what I felt to share with you.. forgive my poor English.