NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Millions of fans are thinking of Randy Travis and repeating calls for prayers following the country music star’s stroke and surgery Wednesday night in a Texas hospital. Here’s a playlist of five of Travis’ most inspirational and heartbreaking songs.
— “Three Wooden Crosses” — Released in 2002 during his gospel period, this song returned Travis to the top of the charts after a nine-year absence. The song’s narrator refers to three crosses seen alongside the road and tells the story of a crash survivor. Travis opens the song by singing, “A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher, riding on a midnight bus bound for Mexico … ” and it unfolds like a heartbreaking mystery. The song won the Country Music Association’s song of the year award and a Dove Award as well.
— “Forever and Ever, Amen” — Driven by a subtle but bouncy bass line, this love song is told from the perspective of a free spirit trying to convince the woman he loves that he’s ready to settle down. “I’m gonna love you forever and ever/forever and ever, amen,” Travis sings in his mellow baritone on the chorus, and by the end of the song he’s got you convinced. Released in 1987, the song was Travis’ third No. 1 and won the Grammy Award for best country & western song and the Academy of Country Music’s song of the year.
— “Angels” — This post-9/11 song is Travis as evangelist. The song begins with a bunch of friends sitting around talking about “politics, religion love and life” in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks when one says he doesn’t believe in angels. Travis preaches, “Are you telling me you’ve never seen an angel?/Never felt the presence of one standing by?/No robe of white, no halo in sight?/Well, you missed the most obvious thing/Man, are you blind?/Just look in your mother’s eyes.”
— “On the Other Hand” — This was Travis’ first No. 1 song in the U.S., but it required a little extra work to reach the top of the charts. Released in 1985, the song was Travis’ first single as a Warner Bros. recording artist, and appeared on his game-changing album “Storms of Life.” It initially drew little notice, but after Travis neared the top of the charts with his next single, he decided to re-release it in 1986. The rest is country music history.
— “I Told You So” — This Travis-penned breakup song was released four times over the years — twice by Travis, once by Carrie Underwood and with Underwood as a duet. That duet helped return Travis to the spotlight in the latter years of the last decade. He performed the song with Underwood on “American Idol” and at The Academy of Country Music Awards. It also returned him to the stage at the Grammy Awards in 2010 when it won best country collaboration with vocals. The lyric “Now I found somebody new and you will never break my heart in two again … ” sums up the mood.
Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott .