His voice was shaky and slightly garbled, but as country music veteran and Marshville native Randy Travis sang the words to “Amazing Grace” Sunday night, his signature depth was finally back for his fans.
It had been three years since Travis, 56, suffered a life-threatening stroke, one that robbed him of his award-winning voice and ability to walk, reported USA Today.
He spent six months recovering in the hospital, followed by years of therapy to rehabilitate his speech and mobility.
On Sunday, Travis rose from his wheelchair and stood onstage at the County Music Hall of Fame, where he was inducted alongside fiddler Charlie Daniels and record producer Fred Foster. To his left stood his wife, Mary Davis-Travis, and artist Garth Brooks flanked his right side.
Then Travis began to sing “Amazing Grace.” The crowd joined in. Brooks teared up. When Travis finished, the entire crowd rose from their seats and gave him a standing ovation.
During the medallion ceremony, fellow country artists Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley, among others, honored Travis and the other inductees with musical tributes, reported the Associated Press.
Travis nearly died after his stroke in 2013, the result of a viral infection in his heart, reported USA Today. Doctors had little hope for his survival, but the star has learned to walk and talk after years of rehab.
“Randy stared death in the face, but death blinked,” Davis-Travis told the audience Sunday, reported NBC News. “Today, God’s proof of a miracle stands before you.”
The singer was born Randy Traywick in the Union County town of Marshville, southeast of Charlotte, and led an infamously rebellious childhood. He was one of six kids, Travis explained in a video that played at the ceremony, and was given his first guitar at age 8.
He was known in the local music scene by the time he was a teenager but had frequent run-ins with the law. “I was arrested for trying to outrun policemen I don’t know how many times,” Travis said in the video. “I’ve been in enough fights for a pro-fighter … a bad losing record though.”
He eventually moved to Nashville and released his first single, “On the Other Hand,” though it failed to make an impact, according to the Tennessean.
His second song, “1982,” was a Top 10 success, prompting Warner Bros. Records to re-release his first single. It became Travis’ first No. 1 song, and started a 10-song consecutive streak of No. 1 hits.
His first Grammy-winning album, released in 1987, featured one of the singer’s most well-known hits, “Forever and Ever, Amen.” His song “Three Wooden Crosses,” another popular tune, was the 2003 CMA Awards Song of the Year, according to the Tennessean.
Travis is credited with ushering in a new wave of traditional country music, paving the way for singers like Brooks, Jackson and Clint Black in the 1990s, reported NBC News.
“He lived and he loved the songs that he wrote and the songs that he sang,” Davis-Travis told the Tennessean in March. “He’s a man of great courage. He’s kind. He’s gentle and he has God-given talents. He chose a career he was hoping he could make a difference in. That career made a difference in him.”