BY LORIE LIEBIG Wide Open Country
Joey Feek, one-half of the country duo Joey + Rory, has died after a long battle with cancer. She was 40.
She passed on Friday afternoon surrounded by friends and family. Rory Feek shared the news on his blog This Life I Live.
“…as we were gathered around her, holding hands and praying.. my precious bride breathed her last. And a moment later took her first breath on the other side.
Though this is, and has been, a time of many tears of sorrow, it has also been a time of countless tears of joy. There have been too many beautiful moments to count or even begin to share in this blog. But I try. When a person has been through as much pain and struggle as Joey’s been through, you just want it to be over. You want them to not have to hurt anymore, more that you want them to stay with you. And so, it makes the hard job of saying goodbye just a little easier.”
Feek was born on Sept. 7, 1975 in Alexandria, Indiana. She performed for the first time at an elementary school talent show where she sang a rendition of Dolly Parton‘s “Coat of Many Colors” at the age of six.
She moved to Nashville with hopes of pursuing a music career in 1998, and signed a deal with Sony Records just two years later. Although she recorded a debut album on the label, it was never publicly released. In 2004, she recorded a follow-up LP, Strong Enough to Cry, which was also originally shelved but eventually released in 2008.
After marrying singer-songwriter Rory Lee Feek in 2002, the pair began performing as a country duo under the moniker Joey + Rory. In 2008, the pair auditioned for the CMT singing competition series, Can You Duet? After coming in third place, the Feeks inked a deal with Sugar Hill Records and released their first collaborative album, The Life of a Song. The record earned positive reviews and debuted at No. 10 on Billboard’s top country albums chart.
In 2010, Joey + Rory won the Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Vocal Duo and released their followup record, Album Number Two. Over the next four years, the Feeks recorded five more albums, A Farmhouse Christmas, His and Hers, Inspired: Songs of Faith & Family, Made to Last, and Country Classics: A Tapestry of Our Musical Heritage.
Joey Feek gave birth to the couple’s first daughter, Indiana Boone Feek, in 2014. Soon after, the couple revealed to their fans that their child was born with Down’s syndrome. Just four months later, it was announced that Joey had been diagnosed with an aggressive case of cervical cancer.Although she underwent intensive treatments, the cancer returned within in 2015 and quickly spread to her colon.
In October, Rory Feek revealed that doctors had told them that the cancer was terminal and stopped all medical treatments. She was then transferred to residential hospice care in her hometown of Alexandria. Through his blog, This Life I Live, Rory Feek shared stories of their last days together, from their excitement over a surprise Grammy nomination to celebrating their daughter’s second birthday.
During her cancer treatments, Feek began work on her “dream project,” which was to be a collection of classic Christian hymns. Hymns That Are Important to Us, the duo’s seventh and final studio album, was released on Feb. 12 and debuted atop both the Billboard Top Country Albums and Top Christian Albums charts.
According to posts from This Life I Live, Joey Feek will be laid to rest in the backyard of their farmhouse in Columbia, Tenn. Information on any public memorial services has not yet been released.