The brightest luminaries in country music — including Kane Brown, Dennis Quaid, Lorrie Morgan, Shenandoah and many others — gathered at Huntsville, Alabama’s VBC Propst Arena on October 24, 2023 for the first of two tribute concerts celebrating legend and icon Randy Travis. Although Randy Travis was sidelined by a stoke a decade ago, affecting his health and his ability to speak and sing, he was on hand to bask in the tributes and enjoy other stars perform his memorable hits.
“The music speaks for itself and because Randy can’t sing his own songs now, it’s heartwarming to listen to other artists perform Randy’s songs … and I know that he loves that,” his wife Mary Travis tells Woman’s World on October 24, 2023 in an exclusive interview. “He’ll say, ‘Well you should have cut that song and not me,’ but that’s just the sweet humility of Randy Travis.”
Randy Travis’ illustrious career
Travis is one of the best-selling artists of all time. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, he has won seven Grammy Awards, 11 Academy of Country Music trophies, 10 American Music Awards, eight Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and five Country Music Association honors, among many accolades during his legendary career.
Three of his hits won CMA Song of the Year honors — “On the Other Hand” (1986), “Forever and Ever Amen” (1987) and “Three Wooden Crosses” (2002). He has earned 23 No. 1 singles, 31 Top-10 smashes and has more than 40 appearances in feature films and television shows to his credit. In 2021, CMT named Travis the CMT Artist of a Lifetime and in 2022 he was the subject of the award-winning documentary More Life.
Randy Travis health update
In 2013, when he was just 54-years-old, Randy Travis suffered a near-fatal stroke and had to undergo brain surgery to remove the clot. “He was in a coma for three days, and they did not identify that he was actually having a stroke right away,” Mary Travis recalls. “So, it was too late for medicine to help out there.”
Randy Travis fought for his life, but the stroke dramatically impacted his long-term health, speech and mobility. And though Randy has made progress over the last decade, he still has limited speaking ability, thus his wife Mary speaks for him in interviews and public appearances … with Randy chiming in with a few words here and there.
“Randy has aphasia [a language disorder caused by damage in the area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension] from the stroke,” Mary explains. “One in three people that suffer from a stroke have aphasia, but we had no idea what it was.”
“Aphasia has taken a lot of Randy’s speech and of course the singing away,” says Mary, who had to learn how it impacts speaking, writing and communication. “Oftentimes people think that Randy’s stuck up or won’t talk, but that’s not the truth. It’s just that he can’t, and I want people to understand that Randy understands everything, it’s just that he can’t communicate as effectively as he once did.”
Understanding God’s plan
Now, Randy and Mary are trying to help educate others about strokes, stroke rehab and the identification of stroke before it does its damage and aphasia through the Randy Travis Foundation, which is also dedicated to providing arts and music enrichment for children.
“The Foundation has become our new purpose,” Mary shares. “People say, ‘We’re so sorry for Randy. But we’re not sorry. That was in God’s plan … we get to touch lives that we never would have touched before.”
And Mary feels that embracing God’s plan is key. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a famous country singer or a schoolteacher or a police officer or a stay-at-home mom, which is one of greatest careers of all time. Figure out what difference you want to make, and you go about making a difference in that way. That’s what Randy Travis is doing. We wouldn’t trade a thing.”
Will there be new music from Randy Travis?
To the surprise and delight of many, Randy and Mary are also working on releasing a new album. “There is 100% chance of more Randy Travis music from the vault that has never been heard,” she smiles. “I tell Randy, ‘You make your music still. It’s just in a different way.’ Even in Randy’s silence, he’s still making music and by touching lives, touching hearts, making a difference and inspiring those that are coming behind him.”
In fact, Mary reveals that a new album has already been mixed by Kyle Lehning, Randy’s career-long producer. “Everything is ready to go!”
A tribute to a legend
Though Randy no longer performs, he and Mary enjoy attending concerts, awards show and special events such as the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony in October 2023, where Randy took his place among the other Hall of Fame members at the ceremony.
The Travis’ are also excited about the second ‘A Heroes and Friends Tribute to Randy Travis’ concert slated for the Texas Trust CU Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas on November 15, featuring artists from the Lone Star state.
“We are 10 years out from the stroke, so we had no idea that we would be around and still be doing something like this,” Mary said of the tribute concert. “It’s a great honor, but it just goes to show that good music stands the test of time. I often call Randy’s songs the ‘hymns of country music,’ just like the ones that we sing in church that have been there for hundreds of years.”
“Randy’s life and strength is confirmation that the music doesn’t really ever die,” Mary says, who adds that there’s nothing more that Randy would want than to be up on that stage singing his own music. “But since he can’t, to have these artists that give their time, and give their affection and heart into performing and keeping his music alive means a lot to us.”
“People always say, ‘Well God left Randy here for a reason,’ and every single day we see what that reason is,” Mary says. “His music has made such a difference in so many lives.”
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