There are few musicians in country music who embody the spirit of the genre as much as the late Joey Feek. One-half of the husband-wife duo Joey + Rory, Joey was a kindhearted and graceful soul with a gorgeous and tender voice. On March 4, Joey died after a long battle with cervical cancer. In her final days, she showed strength, grace and hope that have inspired millions who have followed her story and listened to her music.
Today (Sept. 9) would have been Joey Martin Feek’s 41st birthday. To celebrate her legacy, here are five songs that showcase her incredible talent and legacy.
“When I’m Gone”
It’s not often that art imitates life as much as this song did for Joey + Rory. Written by their friend Sandy Lawrence, the song describes the pain Lawrence felt when she learned her mother was dying. Joey and Rory instantly connected with the song. They recorded it for their 2012 album, His & Hers, with Joey singing the lead part. For the music video, the director felt Joey should sing the song to her husband, Rory. He was reluctant at first, but agreed that’s what the song needed, so he imagined what it would be like without Joey in his life.
Two years later, Joey received her devastating cancer diagnosis. “When I’m Gone” became true life for the couple. Rory Feek describes the song as a blessing. “How many men who are losing the woman they love get a gift like that?” he shared on his blog. “None that I know of.”
“If I Needed You”
Townes Van Zandt’s seminal classic “If I Needed You” has been recorded by Emmylou Harris and Don Williams, but there’s something special about Joey’s version. She sings this tender love song so naturally that, without knowing Van Zandt had penned it, you’d think it was her own song. Rory provides the harmony part.
“Softly and Tenderly”
While she was in treatment, Joey recorded the vocals for their final album, Hymns That Are Important to Us. Using a mic and computer in her hotel room, they captured Joey’s vocals for a number of the tracks. Despite being in the midst of such a painful experience, Joey’s voice is full of hope on this song. Rory diligently documented Joey’s treatment and final days, including clips of her performing this tender hymn, which you can see in the video above. Hymns That Are Important to Us debuted at the top of the US Country Albums and Christian Albums Chart in February 2016.
Joey was a tender singer, but she could also belt out a badass country song, like “Cheater Cheater.” It’s a fun, fast-driving song about confronting an unfaithful spouse. She was a gentle soul, but this song should a side of her that was tough as nails. “Cheater Cheater” went on to become the duo’s first charting song, peaking at No. 30 on Billboard’s US Hot Country Songs. In many ways, the track played a part in taking their career a few major steps forward.
“I’ll Fly Away”
If you needed any more evidence of Joey’s enduring and joyful spirit, listen to their cover of the gospel classic “I’ll Fly Away.” In the months since her passing, this cover has become one of their most popular songs, and it’s no surprise why. Recorded while Joey was in the middle of cancer treatments, this song overflows with hope and positivity.