Randy Travis is alive. He is not dead. He is, however, buried…somewhere deep in my Amazon Music collection of 2,000+ songs. A few days ago, I asked Alexa to set the player to “random” and she selected Travis’ classic “1982” to begin.
Operator, please connect me with 1982
I need to make apologies for what i didn’t do
I sure do need to tell her that i’ve thought the whole thing through
And now it’s clear that she is what i should have held on to
It was only 1986 when he was singing with such longing about 1982. I wonder how much more strongly those yearnings might have become in the decades to follow.
Take me home, country road…
Travis was a significant voice to me in the ‘80s. I was living in California. Having grown up on the kind of country music Travis and others like him were resurrecting, I had strayed. It was all about contemporary Christian, the blues, or Rock ‘n’ Roll for me then. I happened onto a Randy Travis song while scouring the radio in my 1979 Oldsmobile – it featured the sad-but-true gas-conversion diesel engine, but that’s another story – and it drew me back to my Texas cowboy roots. Before long, I was buying country cassettes – Travis, Garth Brooks, Clint Black (who would become my favorite from the era), Keith Whitley, and others – and wearing them out. There was an honesty in their music, a raw-boned frankness, not to mention they were turning phrases that touched off emotions and fired off memories of a simpler time and place.
Leave them boys alone and let ‘em sing their song…
It felt like they were singing what they lived. Turns out, they were.
Keith Whitley recorded 19 hit singles between his debut in 1984 and his alcohol-induced death in ‘89. During that time, he married country singer Lorrie Morgan, who tried to save him and couldn’t. He had made hits with songs like I’m No Stranger to the Rain and Hard Livin’.
Clint Black wrote and recorded edgy, soulful, mournful songs like Killin’ Time, A Better Man, and Loving Blind. Then, he fell in love for real, began a long and happy marriage, and lost his mojo. Happy people just don’t feel the sad songs down in their bones.
Garth Brooks was the biggest showman of them all and maybe the least sincere. Hard to tell whether the sap he oozed was from the heart of the tree or just manufactured outside the soul and bottled up, but he possessed the charisma and the talent to transcend country music. He crossed over and became an icon of that generation. Who can forget Friends in Low Places, The Dance, or Unanswered Prayers? Who didn’t feel the ominous power when he sang The Thunder Rolls?
Garth became too big for his own sanity. He decided he would create an alter ego with a backstory. He introduced “Chris Gaines” to the world and the world laughed him to scorn and oblivion, at least for a decade or so.
None of these crooners were more raw or real or flawed than Randy Travis.
Travis experienced a career plunge that was as life-changing as his meteoric rise had been. Stardom changed him. He had become entitled and, he thought, exempt from the consequences of bad decisions.
A stroke ends a streak
It was not a stroke of bad luck or a streak of bad songs that took down this country giant. Travis enjoyed a packed travel schedule and venues filled to the gills in 2013 when everything changed forever…
Singer Randy Travis: Regaining His Voice — and His Life — After a Massive Stroke
Silenced by stroke, Randy Travis is ready to reconnect with fans at CMA Fest
Success is not for the weak!
Adversity may bring the weak to his knees, but prosperity can wreck even the strongest of men (or women). I have never been impressed by the men who never succumb to temptations they never faced. Don’t brag to me that you never did what you never had the opportunity to do in the first place. Resisting nonexistent temptation is easy.
With success, notoriety, achievement, or recognition, comes temptation. When you have everything you could possibly want, it is easy to desire even more. Consider the power plays currently exercised by the tech giants. Amazon, Google, and Apple recently teamed up – or acted independently – to crush an upstart social media platform that dared to provide a voice to the people they had determined did not deserve to be heard. More importantly, the upstart threatened to cut into their space.
The frailty of the human condition is not bolstered or improved by success. It is exposed. David fell to temptation with Bathsheba because he was the king and he had exposure and access other men did not. You can credit the foot soldier for not going after her if you want, but maybe they didn’t because they couldn’t.
Success and achievement are, in a very real sense, their own reward. They are also their own temptation.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. – Jesus Christ, Luke 12:48
I’m No Stranger to the Rain
If you want to have something, do something, or be something, be prepared to be tried and tested. I have learned the hard way that I was built for adversity. I can wade through rivers of shit, endure years of stress and strife, and come out the other end, bloodied but unbeaten.
Success has been another story. I perfected self-destruction and practiced it more than once.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Be careful when you think you are standing strong, lest you fall.”
In Proverbs 16:18, Solomon wrote, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
The wise king knew this from observation, experience, and divine inspiration.
When you are in adversity, it is easy to admit your vulnerability and seek the help of the Lord or others. You know you are in a fight, so you fight.
When, however, the battle is over and you rise above your vanquished foe victorious, that is when pride sets in. That is when the great King David surveys his kingdom, basking in the glories of his achievements, only to discover unexpected temptation. He leaned on the Lord when he fought with Goliath, contended with King Saul, and defeated the Philistines. All those years of adversity found him strong, faithful, true.
But then along came success…