Joey Martin Feek, of the award-winning husband-and-wife singing duo Joey + Rory, has died. She was 40 years old. In a blog post on February 29th, Feek’s husband, singer-songwriter Rory Lee Feek, who had been chronicling his wife’s final months in a stark, vulnerable online diary, wrote that she has “been asleep for days now, and her body is shutting down quickly.” Today, he posted that she had died: “At 2:30 this afternoon, as we were gathered around her, holding hands and praying. . .my precious bride breathed her last.”
Feek was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014, just four months after the birth of their daughter, Indiana Boone, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after she was born. Feek had undergone surgery earlier in 2015 and was being treated with chemotherapy and radiation.
Originally from Alexandria, Indiana, Joey Martin was born the third of five children in a musical family. Parents Jack and June Martin were childhood sweethearts who married after Jack Martin returned from serving in Vietnam. The young singer made her stage debut at 6 years old, performing Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors.” In later years, she often performed with her mother.
In 1994, Joey’s only brother died several days after being involved in a car accident near the family’s Indiana farmhouse. He was 17. In 2000, two years after moving to Nashville, Joey Martin was signed to Sony Music as a recording artist, but her two LPs for the label were shelved before being released. The second album, Strong Enough to Cry, was eventually issued in 2007, five years into her marriage to songwriter Rory Lee Feek, whom she first spotted at the Bluebird Café in Nashville.
Rory Lee Feek, a Kansas native who served in the Marines before moving to Nashville in 1995, was a staff writer for Hall of Fame songwriter Harlan Howard, then with Clint Black, before forming the Giantslayer publishing company and record label in 2004. He scored a Number One hit that year with Blake Shelton’s “Some Beach,” after having also penned hits for Collin Raye, Clay Walker and Tracy Byrd, among several others.
In 2008, the Feeks combined their talents to compete on the CMT series Can You Duet. They ultimately placed third but secured a deal with Sugar Hill Records, releasing their debut LP, The Life of a Song, featuring the Top 30 hit “Cheater, Cheater,” in October of that year. The follow-up, which was wryly titled Album Number Two, appeared in 2010, succeeded by A Farmhouse Christmas a year later. In 2010, Joey + Rory were named the ACM Top New Vocal Duo of the Year, receiving additional nods from the ACM and CMA from 2009 to 2011.
The couple’s third studio LP, and last for Vanguard/Sugar Hill, was His & Hers, issued in July 2012. Subsequent releases from the duo included Made to Last on their own Farmhouse Recordings imprint, the gospel project Inspired: Songs of Faith and Family and Country Classics: A Tapestry of Our Music Heritage.
In February, they released their final project: a collection of gospel songs titled Hymns That Are Important to Us. The album debuted atop both the Billboard Country Albums chart and the Christian Albums chart, marking the couple’s first-ever Number One album. Additionally, it charted at Number Four on Billboard‘s all-genre Top 200.
Joey + Rory also scored their first-ever Grammy nomination last year, competing in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You.” On April 3rd, they are up for Vocal Duo of the Year at the 51st ACM Awards.
Joey Feek was also co-owner (with Rory’s sister Marcy) of Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse in rural Pottsville, Tennessee, south of Nashville. The café and the couple’s nearby farmhouse served as locations for The Joey + Rory Show, which aired for four seasons on RFD-TV.