Why Randy Travis Didn’t Want to Hear His Own Songs for Eight Months

In 2013, Randy Travis had viral cardiomyopathy that led to a massive stroke.

And once he was finally released from the hospital, he had to spend weeks in a rehab facility.

And once he was finally able to go home with his significant other, Mary (now his wife), she tried to play him some of his music from his 35 years as a country star during their car ride home. But he wouldn’t hear of it.

In a new Cowboys & Indians interview with Travis and his wife, together they tell the story of what has and hasn’t worked for him throughout his recovery.

“It was too much. It took him a while,” Mary says during the interview at their ranch outside of Tioga, Texas. But finally, when Travis was about eight months post-stroke, he was willing to listen to his songs. First up was “He Walked on Water,” Travis’ 1990 ballad from the pen of songwriter Allen Shamblin.

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Now, even though Travis still suffers from aphasia — a kind of brain damage that robbed him of his ability to use words — he can understand everything happening around him. So when the Travis’ go to Nashville for meetings, take part in media interviews, or make appearances for his memoir Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life, he can take it all in.

And Mary explains that that’s what works wonders. “We like to be out here,” she says. “We like for him to be touched and loved on.” Connecting with fans, mostly, sounds like it has been the best way for his legendary voice to live on.

“We’re still singing. It’s just a different type of song now.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.