After His 2013 Stroke, Randy Travis Learned ‘You Can Become Bitter or You Can Become Better’
In the nearly six years since his 2013 stroke, Randy Travis has found more time to immerse himself in the music put out by his peers and the young artists rising in the country format. He's made a surprise appearance onstage with Cody Jinks, popped up in the audience during Luke Bryan's CMA Fest 2018 set and, in 2016, showed up in support of Kane Brown's then-fledgling career.
Being there for his fellow artists hasn't always been easy. Travis still hasn't fully recovered his powers of mobility or speech, and he can't get up onstage and perform to the extent that his contemporaries do. Still, with time, Travis says he has found joy in his role as a listener and mentor, and in the life he lives today.
"There was a time when it was really hard, when we first got home from the hospital. You have to come to the realization of where you are now, and you've got to become okay with that. It does take time," Travis' wife, Mary, tells Taste of Country's Billy Dukes. "We did spend some days -- lots of days -- in tears, thinking, 'This is our new norm, what do we do with it?'"
Eventually, the couple began not only to adjust, but to enjoy their "new norm." Part of that enjoyment, Mary expresses, comes from being around the music that Travis has always loved. "What we found that we enjoy so much now is going to concerts, and going to see people that he enjoys their music," she says. "We try to go and see both the people that are his age and in his era, and a lot of the new ones."
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While Travis is known as one country's most stalwart traditionalists, he enjoys going to see artists who fall more on the pop end of the country spectrum, as well as those who stay true to the genre's roots. No matter which camp an artist might fall into, Mary describes, it doesn't change the way they react when the legendary singer shows up to watch their set.
"It's so much fun to see the energy, and to observe the respect that those artists show Randy when he shows up," she explains. "It's like going to a movie for us: We'll sit there and listen to the music, we watch the show, and the energy is so wonderful. And if they introduce Randy, then the fans go crazy, and it reminds Randy of why he did what he did for so many years -- and loved doing it. It's because of that energy that the fans give him, and continue to, when he walks onstage."
In staying connected to his musical community, Travis stays connected not only to his fans, but to the lasting legacy he crafted out of his own career. "Randy's made of a fiber that doesn't fray. That's pretty obvious," Mary reflects. "He will never be forgotten, and he doesn't forget the people that have made a difference in his life."
Sharing his story in a new memoir, Forever and Ever Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life, has been another way for Travis to stay connected to those who will never forget him.
"You readjust your thinking. You can become bitter, or you can become better. And you share your walk, and you hope it makes a difference for someone else, and you hope it encourages them," Mary continues. "So that's what we do now. We sing a different song."
Travis' memoir is due out on Tuesday (May 14). The book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.
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