Joey and Rory Feek first turned heads on the debut season of Can You Duet in 2008 as the duo Joey + Rory. But their story begins much earlier. The couple met in Nashville years before when Rory was working as a songwriter, penning hits for country stars like Kenny Chesney and Reba McEntire. Meanwhile, Joey was an aspiring singer trying to get her first album off the ground. The two quickly fell in love and married in 2002. The duo didn't win Can You Duet, but audiences were drawn to their chemistry, talent, and passion for one another all the same.
The couple released their debut country album The Life of a Song in 2008 on Vanguard Records, which helped make them one of the most beloved duos in country music. Over their incredible career, the six-time ACM award nominees recorded seven more albums and won Top Vocal Duo of the Year at the 2010 ACM awards. The couple gave birth to their daughter Indiana in 2014, just months before Joey Feek's diagnosis with cervical cancer. Though they were dealing with immeasurable pain during that process, the Feeks continued to write and record music.
Joey Martin Feek passed away on March 4, 2016. Her life ended way too soon, but her music and spirit will always endure. Take a look back at her incredible talent with our list of the ten best Joey and Rory songs.
1. "Free Bird"
This stellar cover of the southern rock anthem was featured on the duo's debut album The Life of a Song. Joey Feek lays her soul bare in this gorgeous, stripped-down version of the classic song, making it more of an Appalachian lullaby than a raucous party jam. You've heard it a million times but never like this.
2. "I'll Fly Away"
For their 2016 album Hymns That Are Important To Us, Joey + Rory revisited their favorite gospel songs. It was a passion project for Joey, and you can hear it in her voice on "I'll Fly Away."
3. "Cheater Cheater"
Written by Joey and Rory Feek, Wynn Varble and Kristy Osmonson, "Cheater, Cheater" is a bluegrass-tinged rowdy kiss-off to an unfaithful man. The best part? Naomi Judd's hilarious cameo in the music video. "Cheater, Cheater" peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and remains one of the duo's most fun and memorable songs.
4. "Amazing Grace"
During her battle with cancer, Feek found strength in her faith. Her gorgeous rendition of "Amazing Grace" is both tender and powerful.
5. "That's Important to Me"
"That's Important to Me" from Joey + Rory's sophomore record, Album Number Two, extols life's simple pleasures like "plantin' a garden and watching it grow, keeping it country on the radio" and is a reminder that the people you love should always take top priority.
6. "If I Needed You"
The country couple put their own spin on the Townes Van Zandt-penned favorite "If I Needed You" for their album Made to Last. The song scored the duo a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo or Group Performance.
7. "This Song's For You"
Joey + Rory teamed up with the Zac Brown Band for the uplifting "This Song's For You," an anthem for the working man and woman and traditional country fans.
8. "When I'm Gone"
"When I'm Gone," Joey + Rory's most striking and heartbreaking song, was written by the Feeks' close friend Sandy Lawrence after the death of her mother. The duo included the song on their 2012 album His and Hers. But the song took on new meaning after Joey's cancer diagnosis. Though it made the song even more painful and poignant for fans of Joey + Rory, it became a healing way for the unforgettable Joey Feek to say goodbye in the way she lived: with honesty, love, and music.
Rory Feek read a series of letters that a Civil War soldier named John Robison wrote back to his wife at home in Tennessee during the war. He was moved by Robison's words and ended up writing the song "Josephine" that he and Joey included on their 2012 LP, His and Hers. After the song was released, a Civil War historian actually reached out after discovering letters that Josephine wrote back to her husband, John Robison. Feek actually wrote a full-length script inspired by the story that was released as the film Josephine in 2016.
10. "In a Cowboy's Dreams"
Released on the duo's 2013 album Made to Last, this is one of Joey + Rory's most underrated songs. This sweet ballad, with the twangy guitar and Joey's smooth vocals, is an ode to the dreamy life of a cowboy. "Oh I wish life was what it seems," Joey sings in the chorus. "In a cowboy's dreams."
This post was originally published on February 26, 2016. It was updated in 2022.
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