Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Forever and Ever, Amen - Randy Travis and Ken Abraham

I can remember so clearly the first time I heard a Randy Travis recording and how excited I was to discover his first major label release, the album Storms of Life. To understand my excitement, you have to recall just how bad country music radio was in mid-1986 when that album came out of nowhere; traditional country music was on its deathbed, having been replaced by spawns of that awful Urban Cowboy craze that gave us the silliness of John Travolta being accepted as a cowboy role model, line-dancing, and some of the worst music I’ve ever heard. Fans of traditional country music were yearning for new songs in the style they had loved their entire lives – but no one in the industry was paying any attention.

And then Randy Travis burst onto the scene as one of those overnight successes (who, of course, had been working for peanuts for years), and all was well in the world of country music again. Suddenly, everyone wanted to make music in Randy’s neo-traditionalist style and major labels were falling all over themselves trying to find their own version of Randy Travis. And for a while, that’s exactly what happened, enabling fans of real country music to hear the real thing on their radios for another few years. Sadly though, as soon as Randy’s generation hit middle age, the boom was over and country radio is worse today than it ever has been. But that’s not Randy’s fault. He did his bit.

But it wasn’t easy.

Forever and Ever, Amen is one of those conversational memoirs produced by so many celebrities and their co-authors (in this case that would be co-author Ken Abraham) that we’ve come to expect over the years. Reading them often has the feel of sitting down across the table from the celeb in question and listening to them reminisce for five or six hours. Forever and Ever, Amen is a little different, though, for readers who already know how the story is going to end. For those readers, this is more like watching one of those horror movies where you want to yell at the actors on screen not to go into that room or open that closet door. In the cases of Randy Travis, I wanted to yell at him, “Stay away from Lib Hatcher, whatever you do, Randy. Don’t listen to her.”

Amazingly enough, Randy Travis is such a forgiving person that he gives Hatcher all the credit for making him into the huge country music star he became despite the fact that she robbed him blind in the process, manipulated everything in his personal life to her benefit, and is probably at least technically guilty of some level of child abuse (Travis was 17 years old when their relationship began and Hatcher is more than a decade older than him). He emphasizes her role in launching and managing his career, as well as in weaning him from the teenaged drugging and drinking habits that would have likely seen him end up in prison had he not met her. And even when enumerating the ways that Hatcher abused his trust in her, both financially and emotionally, Travis never adopts an angry tone.

But there’s still the ending (at least for now it’s the ending) of the story, and that’s the part of Forever and Ever, Amen that I can’t imagine anyone reading with a dry eye. In mid-2013, Randy Travis suffered a massive stroke while in the midst of life-threatening breathing difficulties that stopped his heart in a hospital emergency room. Because he went into a coma at the same time, no one recognized that Travis had had a stroke and he was not treated for it until two days later, way too late to prevent massive brain damage and paralysis of his right side. It got so serious at one point that those closest to him were advised by doctors to pull the plug on him to end his suffering. When he did finally leave the hospital, the man had to learn to walk and talk again, and his recording career was over.

But Randy Travis is not a quitter, so maybe one day we will be reading Forever and Ever, Amen, Part 2. I hope so.

Bottom Line: Forever and Ever, Amen is a heartfelt memoir that tells the story of a man of faith who managed to beat the odds more than once in his life. His story is a remarkable one that will especially be appreciated by Randy Travis fans, but more importantly, it is an inspirational story powerful enough to change lives for the better.   

This was Randy Travis in 2017, four years after his stroke:



And this was Randy Travis before the stroke that almost killed him:





2 comments:

  1. His music isn't really my thing, but I've always admired Randy Travis for the kind of person he is.

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  2. This particular song is not one I much care for either because it's a little to much like pop music to suit my taste, but early on in his career it became his signature song and remains that way. I love his voice and the fact that he helped save real country music for almost two decades. Without Randy, the music would have reached its current state of awfulness in the eighties rather than the late nineties.

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