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Remembering Joey Feek: A Talented and Courageous Country Music Star

Joey Feek remains one of the greatest storytellers and vocalists in country music.

Her voice was magical in the way she carved out melodies, her voice supple and magnetic. Her harmonies rivaled the best in the business, as she drew upon the work of The Carter Family.

Bound to her husband Rory’s reedier timbre, Joey’s was flighty and reached to the stars.

Known together as Joey + Rory, the duo got their start as contestants on the short-lived Can You Duet reality TV show. They ultimately finished in third place, surprisingly enough.

Joey + Rory then made a splash with 2008’s The Life of a Song debut album, issued on Sugar Hill Records. It was quick and immediate. Their work was and is exemplary, nestled in the rich underbrush of country music history, while pushing the boundaries of what could make a great modern record.

Many more albums followed, from 2010’s Album Number Two to the transcendent His And Hers, released in 2012.

Their last proper album arrived in 2016. Hymns featured versions of such popular hymns as “Jesus Loves Me” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”

The duo’s song “When I’m Gone” struck a deep chord.

“When I’m Gone” originally appeared on the duo’s 2012 album, His and Hers. A new version was included as the closing track on their farewell album, Hymns.

The song resonated with critics and fans alike, particularly in its emotionally pulverizing quality.

In light of Joey’s cancer diagnosis, it radiated a warmth and resignation on the reality of her life and death. The song currently has more than 8 million streams on Spotify. To say it’s connected deeply with the public is an understatement.

What are the lyrics to “When I’m Gone”?

A bright sunrise will contradict the heavy fog that weighs you down
In spite of all the funeral songs
The birds will make their joyful sounds

You’ll wonder why the earth still moves
You’ll wonder how you’ll carry on
But you’ll be okay on that first day when I’m gone

Dusk will come with fireflies and whippoorwill and cricket’s call
And every star will take its place
In silvery gown and purple shawl

You’ll lie down in our big bed
Dread the dark and dread the dawn
But you’ll be alright on that first night when I’m gone

You will reach for me in vain
You’ll be whispering my name
As if sorrow were your friend
And this world so alien

But life will call with daffodils
And morning glorious blue skies
You’ll think of me some memory
And softly smile to your surprise

And even though you love me still
You will know where you belong
Just give it time, we’ll both be fine
When I’m gone

Cancer Diagnosis

In 2014, Joey underwent surgery to treat cervical cancer.

After what appeared to be a complete recovery, she was later diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer in 2015.

“She had hoped that it was just a stomach virus or an intestinal issue,” Rory wrote on his now-defunct blog, “but after many tests and biopsies, it turns out that it’s more than that.” (via The Tennessean)

Joey + Rory standing on a red carpet event doing an interview.
Joey + Rory attend a red carpet event. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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When did Joey Feek pass away?

After a two-year battle with cervical cancer, Joey died in March 2016.

“My wife’s greatest dream came true today. She is in Heaven. The cancer is gone. The pain has ceased. And all her tears are dry,” Rory wrote on his blog. (via People)

He continued:

“When a person has been through as much pain and struggle as Joey’s been through, you just want it to be over. You want them to not have to hurt anymore, more that you want them to stay with you. And so, it makes the hard job of saying goodbye just a little easier.”

Where is Rory Feek now?

Rory Feek owns a farm outside of Nashville, where he now resides with his daughter Indiana (or Indy, for short).

In 2021, Rory released a series of singles, including “Me & the Blues,” featuring Vince Gill.

A year later, he appeared on Larry’s Country Diner, a popular TV variety show that airs on RFD-TV. He issued a series of songs, including “Someone You Used to Know” and “Small Talk Cafe.”

In recent years, he’s also hosted a series of discussions around sustainable farming and an event called “Songs, Stories & Sustainability with Joel Salatin and Rory Feek,” presented in 2021.

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