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- The Curmudgeon
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Randy Travis was so near death after his 2013 stroke that he flatlined three times and doctors advised removing him from life-support, the country music legend and his wife revealed to The Tennessean in their most in-depth interview since the incident.
Three years and three months later, Travis returned to the spotlight for his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He stood throughout his induction and then stunned the room, singing Amazing Grace.
The road back has been grueling, Travis said during a wide-ranging 90-minute conversation at the couple's upscale Nashville condo. Travis' speech is halting, and he maneuvers around the residence in a wheelchair.
Asked whether he is happy, the singer paused for several seconds.
“Well … no,” he said, before another long pause. "Damaged."
But his wife, Mary, who defied doctor’s advice and fought to keep her husband alive, predicts he’ll sing again on Wednesday night during an all-star tribute to the seven-time Grammy winner at Bridgestone Arena. Garth Brooks, Chris Young and Jamey Johnson are among the 30 artists who will pay tribute to Travis.
Although Travis is still working to regain his conversation skills, he can sing — at least a few songs.
“There is a perfectionist in him that knows he’s not singing exactly like he used to that keeps him from enjoying it like I wish he would,” she said. “I know the world, when they hear him, they can tell it’s Randy Travis, and the more he does it, the better it’s going to get.”
Travis changed the course of country music in 1986 with the release of his multiplatinum-selling Storms of Life. In the next three decades, he charted 16 No. 1 songs and his traditional country baritone rang through hits including Forever and Ever, Amen, Deeper than a Holler and On the Other Hand.
“I can’t find another artist in any format in the history of music that turned a format 180 degrees right back into itself, a mirror of what it was, and made it bigger than it was before,” said Brooks, who has counted Travis among his biggest influences.
Added Brad Paisley, “Randy showed up on the scene with a voice that was both retro and fresh, songs that were brilliant and charisma that could never be duplicated.”
Lightly stroking her husband’s hand with her thumb, Mary Travis recounted, for the first time publicly, the first days after the stroke, describing them as “hitting a brick wall at 100 miles per hour.”
Travis went to the emergency room near their Texas ranch on July 5, 2013, complaining of congestion. His lungs were full of fluid, so he was transferred to a larger hospital, where he lost consciousness for the first time.
It was not until he came out of a coma days later that doctors realized he had suffered a stroke. Mary tearfully recalled being told that life-saving surgery would be required. And even with an operation, Travis had only a 1 to 2% chance of survival.
“At this point, the 1 to 2% chance is 100% chance over zero,” Mary says. “I prayed hard, ‘God, please let me have him back, any way, shape or form.’ ”
The surgery was successful and, following more than two years of rehab, Travis can now walk, shower unassisted and get himself dressed.
He remembers all of his song lyrics and can use his left hand to run the chords on his guitar neck. He’s still regaining use of his right arm and leg. He says it feels “good” to sing again.
Asked where he wants to be in his recovery five years from now, Travis smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“I think our goal for five years is to remain hopeful and keep our heads up high and not throw in the towel and be happy with wherever God has us,” Mary said. “If it’s back up on that stage singing, hallelujah.”
God, Country, Notre Dame
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