In 2016, Craig Morgan was giving serious thought to walking away from his country music career. That summer, the singer’s 19-year-old son Jerry drowned in a tubing accident on a lake near the Tennessee-Kentucky border and Morgan was, understandably, shell-shocked. He continued to tour, but he often found himself going through the motions onstage.
“It was so difficult to try to motivate myself to not just be here, but be here and be excited about it. There were some shows where I thought, ‘I’m not sure if I should be doing this anymore,'” Morgan tells Rolling Stone. “I always said I’m not going to stay in this business if I’m not relevant, and it was starting to feel like maybe my relevance wasn’t there.”
On top of his personal grief, Morgan hadn’t had a single make a serious impact on the country charts since “Wake Up Lovin’ You” in 2013. At 55, he was coming to terms with the idea that today’s country music, with its party songs and hip-hop influences, just might be a young man’s game.
Then one night early this year he awoke in tears and with a title circling his mind: “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.”
“It woke me up at 3:30 in the morning. I was saying that whole chorus in my head and I sat up and had tears in my eyes. I laid my head back down and thought, ‘Man, there is no way I’m going to remember this. So I need to get up and write it down,'” Morgan says. Leaving his wife Karen asleep in bed, he went off alone and, four hours later, at dawn, emerged with the most personal song of his career, one that hearkens back to his more spiritual work like 2004’s “That’s What I Love About Sunday” and stands in stark contrast to his good-timing hits like “Redneck Yacht Club” and “Bonfire.”
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“I just cried and wrote and cried and wrote,” he says. “To this day, having done this for 20 years, I don’t see myself as that guy. But it all started pouring out.”
Morgan intended to only share the cathartic ballad with his family — his wife, and their three other kids — but after he played it for his band, they encouraged him to perform it live. He debuted “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost” onstage at a gig in Colorado and, in July, sang it onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, walking offstage once again in tears and convinced he couldn’t sing those lyrics in front of an audience again.
“Ricky Skaggs was standing there and he put his hands on my shoulders and looked me dead in my eyes and said, ‘You have to sing that song. The world needs to hear it,'” Morgan says.
Thinking of Blake Shelton, whom he regards as his closest artist friend and whose brother Richie died in a car accident when Shelton was only 14, Morgan decided to text the song to The Voice star. Shelton flipped, and tweeted that he would “gladly give up my spot on country radio to get this on [the air].”
I would gladly give up my spot on country radio to get this song on.. Wow @cmorganmusic you blow me away brother.. There’s nothing easy or fun about writing a song like this but sometimes it’s just something you gotta do. https://t.co/QXJ2wiZ4cI
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) September 9, 2019
But Shelton didn’t stop there. Last week, the influential superstar implored his nearly 21 million Twitter followers to download the song in an effort to push it to Number One on the iTunes Country chart, even at the expense of his own single. “Lets get around that ‘God’s Country’ song and get this thing up there!” he tweeted.
Fellow artists and celebrities, from Luke Combs and Bret Michaels to Ellen DeGeneres and Carson Daly, got onboard and “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost” topped not only the iTunes Country chart, but the all-genre roster as well.
Ladies and gentleman one of the hardest things to ever achieve in music is having a #1 selling song of ALL music ALL genres. You can’t fake it. The song has to touch people. Congratulations @cmorganmusic. This ones for Jerry. pic.twitter.com/0oTeYplikj
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) September 12, 2019
“It’s a super weird thing to be this guy right now,” Morgan says, overwhelmed by the support and the song’s accomplishment.
Such sales victories are fleeting, however — a week later, the song is number 13 on the iTunes country chart and 45 all-genre. But the true test comes at country radio, where Morgan and his label home, Broken Bow Records, are hoping for support. In a good sign, some stations have already begun playing the song ahead of its official October 7th add date.
Shelton, for one, thinks “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost” has a shot at duplicating its viral success on the airwaves. “I believe it WILL go #1 at radio,” he tweeted.
Morgan would be happy with such a milestone, but he says the real triumph is the way his song born of anguish is comforting others who have been through similar tragedies.
“With losing a child, there’s bad days and then there are really bad days. On the bad days, we’re able to control our emotions a little more. On really bad days, it’s tougher,” he says. “I know that for the rest of my life, it’s going to be that way.
“But I see the messages from all the families, and people who have lost children, who talk about how this song has reignited their faith and their love for humanity. That’s a powerful thing.”