Joey Feek (1975-2016)
Joey Martin Feek, the Joey + Rory singer whose uplifting life story and dauntless courage in her struggle with cancer became an inspiration for thousands, passed away today, March 4, at the age of 40.
The singer stopped treatment for an aggressive cervical cancer in October 2015 and entered hospice care in her home state of Indiana on Nov. 9. Fans and those who learned of Feek’s diagnosis through social media followed her treatment and struggle through moving blog posts written by her husband and duo partner Rory Feek.
“The industry and Joey + Rory fans around the world have been following her courageous battle and have watched in awe her grace and unwavering faith,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “Their love story was an inspiration through so much adversity and so many exceptional moments of bravery.”
Rory Feek captured his wife’s struggle in her final months with stark honesty and the kind of loving portrayal those who are close to the couple are familiar with: “I want my wife to be remembered. By me. By others who love her even though they’ve never met her. I guess that’s why I write this blog. I want her sweet voice and her love to live on … And someday when your moment comes with someone you love … maybe, just maybe, you will remember Joey and her words and voice and life will comfort you … and her song will live on.”
While both achieved a measure of success in the music business before meeting, it wasn’t until they combined talents that they found a niche that brought shared notoriety. They released seven albums together, toured extensively, were nominated for industry awards including two CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year nods, and gained a nationwide following of fans who appreciated their traditional and inspirational approach.
“We’re experiencing everything together,” Martin Feek said in a 2010 Associated Press interview. “That’s been the highlight of it all.”
Martin Feek grew up in Indiana where she sometimes performed with her parents as a child and fell in love with horses, instilling in her a love for family and a rural, agrarian-based lifestyle. She moved to Nashville with the idea of becoming a singer and soon landed a record deal. She recorded an album, but in the middle of the process saw Feek — a former Marine and single father of two daughters — perform at a songwriters’ pull one night and started to fall in love.
Feek was singing the kind of heartfelt material, written in a plainspoken manner, that interested her in a way the songs she was recording in the studio didn’t. She finished the album, but it was shelved and no singles were released. She married Feek four months after meeting him in 2002 and chose to focus on their life together.
She opened Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse near Columbia, Tenn., with her sister-in-law, starting the day baking bread at 4:00 AM, and helped Feek raise his two teenage daughters in a farmhouse they lovingly restored over several years. In 2008, a friend suggested they try out for the CMT singing contest show “Can You Duet.” It had never occurred to them to sing together professionally. They finished third and landed a record deal with independent label Sugar Hill Records and, later, a deal with the RFD-TV network, where they hosted “The Joey + Rory Show.”
Together the couple achieved many of the goals they had initially set out to reach separately. They released The Life of a Song, the first of seven albums as Joey + Rory, in 2008. Lead single “Cheater Cheater” was a Top 40 hit and the duo soon hit the road, touring extensively until Martin Feek’s health deteriorated in 2015.
The couple released their last album, Hymns That Are Important to Us, in February. The album topped Billboard’s Top Country Albums and Top Christian Albums charts, selling more than 68,000 copies in its first week of release — a career best for the duo. They also were nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “If I Needed You” at the 2016 Grammy Awards.
Martin Feek is survived by her husband, Rory Feek, their two-year-old daughter, Indiana, step-daughters Heidi and Hopie, her parents, and three sisters. Funeral arrangements are pending.