Heartwarming stories involve overcoming adversity. The background to Rory and Indy Feek’s triumphant father-and-daughter duet of Shel Silverstein’s Papa What If includes genuine tragedy. Rory Feek was a working songwriter and occasional country singer in Nashville when he married young country singer Joey Martin in 2002 after a brief courtship.
Rory and Joey continued their separate careers. Rory co-wrote Blake Shelton’s #1 Hot Country song Some Beach while Joey was signed to Sony. It was only in 2008 that they started performing as Rory and Joey. In 2014 their first child together, Indiana, was born with Down Syndrome. In 2016, Joey died after a two-year battle with cervical cancer.
When he posted the video on 19 June 2022, Rory Feek noted that the 1st thing that 10-year-old Indiana did after waking was wish him Happy Father’s Day: “She was so excited to share the sweet card and gift she had for me. And so, the first thing I wanted to do this morning is wish all the Papa’s out there a Happy Father’s Day too; and share a sweet little three-minute gift with you from me and Indy”. Touching as the song is, the highlight is at the end when Indy says “I love you Papa” and smiles.
Rory and Joey became a country music act when a friend suggested that they try out for the 2008 CMT Can You Duet show. They came third and released their first album as a duo. Rory and Joey released music that charted on the country charts and built a fanbase. Their third album His and Hers (2012) included the single When I’m Gone. The song, wherein a dying person offers solace to those left behind, was written by their friend Sandy Lawrence after the death of her mother. Joey sings the lead.
When they shot the video for When I’m Gone it was decided that, since Joey sang the song, the video would feature her as the protagonist addressing Rory. Rory resisted, but in the end went along with the idea. Little did they know that in a few years, the scenario in the video would become their reality. Buoyed by his faith – Rory and Joey released a number of Christian-themed albums – Rory has recently said that he is not saddened by the track, rather he is grateful for it. If he needs to be reminded of Joey’s love for him, of her beauty, or of her voice, he just needs to play the video.
Joey was forty when she died. Indiana was two years old. To keep the family connection going, Rory often played guitar and sang to baby Indiana. When she was four, Indiana started singing along to a song by her mother in the car. Heidi, Rory’s daughter from his first marriage, filmed the moment and Rory posted it on Instagram.
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Singing and strumming on guitar has become part of Rory and Joey’s daily routine, which explains the panache with which they pulled off Papa What If. As a single father, Rory Feek has had help raising Indiana from his two sisters, who live on his farm, and his two daughters from his first marriage. Indiana is home schooled with other local children in a one-roomed schoolhouse on the farm.
Since Joey’s passing, Rory Feek has written two memoirs and a number of children’s books. He has also made a documentary series called This Life I Live (2020). He released his first solo album, “Gentle Man”, in June 2021. It is his first album after losing Joey. If you would like to see more from Rory and Joey Feek, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.