The Truth About Randy Travis' Relationship With Garth Brooks

Musicians Randy Travis and Garth Brooks are responsible for some of the biggest hits in the history of the country music genre. With songs like "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Three Wooden Crosses," Travis updated the traditional sound of country and gospel music for audiences in the '80s and '90s, via Taste of Country. Brooks also took up the country music legacy around that same time. Like Travis, Brooks drew from the traditional roots of the genre, while also expanding the scope of the style to reach an unprecedented level of success, on par with many rock 'n' roll musicians, according to All Music.

It's not surprising, then, that two artists as successful as Brooks and Travis around the same time as one another would be well acquainted. This is certainly the case with Randy Travis and Garth Brooks. The recently revealed truth about Randy Travis' relationship with Garth Brooks, however, adds a sentimentality and sweetness to the friendship, a bit like an actual classic country ballad.

Garth Brooks and Randy Travis are old friends

Randy Travis' first hit record, the multi-platinum selling "Storms of Life," came out in 1986, followed closely by Garth Brooks' bestselling self-titled debut, three years later. Furthermore, the mutual admiration between the two recording artists is hardly a secret. "Randy Travis saved country music, in my opinion. I don't know of any artist who took a format and turned it 180 [degrees] back to where it came from and made it bigger than it was then," Brooks told The Tennessean in 2019. 

In 2017, Brooks also opened up about his undying respect for Travis. "Just speaking for me, every day you wish Randy Travis would show up again — an artist like Randy Travis," Brooks told Rolling Stone Country one year after inducting Travis into the Country Music Hall of Fame. "But the truth is, that only happened once in my past lifetime. It ain't gonna happen again in the next one for me." Brooks would also go on to perform at a tribute concert for Travis, who suffered a stroke in 2013, according to Republic World.

Randy Travis is in poor health

These kind words shared between two old friends are particularly moving in light of Randy Travis' continuing health issues. About eight years ago, Randy Travis suffered viral cardiomyopathy, according to Saving Country Music. He flatlined, but was pulled back from the brink. He remained in a coma and would go on to suffer a stroke. The musician's prognosis was bleak following this health emergency. After spending nearly six months in the hospital and after having a part of his skull removed to alleviate swelling, Travis developed a common condition for stroke-sufferers called aphasia, affecting his speech and, in turn, his singing.

Early on, doctor's told Travis and his wife he may never talk, perform on stage, or even walk again. Although challenges remain, Travis has defied the odds, recently delivering a rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the Country Music Hall of Fame Awards (via The Focus). These health issues may have added extra urgency for Brooks to open up his heart for his old friend and musical idol.

Randy Travis influenced Garth Brooks

Further emotional insight into the depth and complexity of the relationship between Garth Brooks and Randy Travis was revealed at the 2021 CMT Artist of the Year Ceremony. At the event, Travis was set to receive the Artist of a Lifetime trophy, presented by Brooks. According to Taste of Country, Brooks told the crowd at the gathering, "I stand here tonight as one of the benefactors of this man's contributions to country music."

Brooks would go on to say that Randy Travis' mix of classic country with gospel and pop on hits like "Three Wooden Crosses" and "Forever and Ever, Amen" specifically influenced him as a songwriter, paving the way for Brooks' own classic country style with a modern twist. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Randy Travis single-handedly saved country music," Brooks continued as a visibly moved Travis looked on from the audience.

The feeling is mutual

Brooks' warm regard for Randy Travis is far from one-sided. Following the CMT ceremony, Travis took to social media to pen a lengthy and heartfelt response. "When my last silent prayer is said," the musician wrote on Facebook, according to Outsider, "I'll thank God for Garth Brooks in my life," and if Brooks counts Randy Travis as an inspiration, Travis is also thankful for the support the somewhat younger musician gave him early on in his career.

"Garth Brooks came along right behind me and kept cheering me on as he climbed his own 'taller' mountain! I'm so glad one was near the other," Travis continued in the post. Possibly referencing Travis' health issues related to the stroke, Travis also said, "We don't see each other as much; but, never a day goes by that I doubt Garth is still there for me — telling the world now, what he told me back then."

Like Brooks, Travis also credits Brooks for the continued popularity of the country music genre: "I may have helped bring our genre back to life, but you taught it how to live!"

Honesty is a hallmark of country music

This touching exchange between two veteran musicians and long-time friends is precisely what many country fans love about the genre. Who knows what the future holds for Brooks and Travis. Brooks is currently on a "dive bar" tour after canceling stadium dates on account of the pandemic, according to Rolling Stone, while Travis' lingering health problems make many future singing appearances from the artist unlikely.

Could the two musicians end up one day working together? Fans of classic country would love to see this come to pass. What's for certain, though, is that Brooks' kind words at the CMT awards ceremony and Travis' appreciative Facebook post prove to younger artists in the country music genre that respect and mutual admiration between two legendary artists is perhaps equally important as hit singles on the radio. This mutual respect, more than anything, could be the real lasting legacy of Randy Travis' relationship with Garth Brooks.