Randy Travis is one of the iconic voices that defined country music in the 1980s. With a rich baritone that shone on every song he recorded, Travis’ voice is behind such genre-defining hits as “Three Wooden Crosses,” “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “Diggin’ Up Bones,” which are also quintessential songs in his catalog.
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Though Travis suffered a stroke in 2013 that impacted his ability to sing, he defied the odds when he sang a few lines of “Amazing Grace” at his 2016 induction ceremony into the Country Music Hall of Fame, proving that music is a powerful healer. Below, we look at eight of Travis’ best songs throughout his career.
1. “Three Wooden Crosses”
“Three Wooden Crosses” is one of the many trademarks of Travis’ career. The moving song tells the sad story of a farmer, a teacher, a preacher and a hooker who are involved in a bus crash that tragically kills three of them. By the end of the song, the listener learns that the hooker survived and had a son who became a preacher and is the one telling this compelling story. “Three Wooden Crosses” is arguably one of the best story songs in country music, and there’s no one better to tell it than Travis.
2. “Forever and Ever, Amen”
It’s hard to imagine Travis’ catalog without “Forever and Ever, Amen.” The heartfelt song was inspired by co-writer Don Schlitz’s son, who’d often tell his mother, “I love you forever and ever, amen.” Schlitz and co-writer Paul Overstreet turned this sweet sentiment into a love song that sounds like it was made for Travis’ voice. It topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and won Travis a 1988 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Song. Not only is this one of Travis’ signature songs, but it’s also a country music classic.
3. “I Told You So”
“I Told You So” is one of the most heart-aching country breakup ballads. Travis narrates this story from the perspective of a heartbroken man who poses a hypothetical situation about if he were to call the woman he loves and asks for a second chance. Would you say I told you so / Oh, I told you so / I told you someday you’d come crawling back / And asking me to take you in / I told you so, but you had to go / And now I’ve found somebody new / And you will never break my heart in two again, he croons in the solemn chorus.
The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart following its original release in 1988. The song returned to the top of the charts when Travis and Carrie Underwood recorded it as a duet in 2009, their version reaching the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals in 2010.
4. “Diggin’ Up Bones”
There’s a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in “Diggin’ Up Bones,” and Travis delivers it with ease. The singer takes his time as he goes through old memories of a love that’s dead and gone, from pictures to love letters shared between him and his past love. It’s a classic storytelling song and one of the best songs to come out of ’80s country music.
Travis knows how to deliver a heartbreak song, and he proves that with “1982.” This traditional country tune sees Travis as a man heartsick over a lost love, looking back on old photos wishing he could go back to 1982 when she was still his. The song hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, making for one of Travis’ best.
6. “Is It Still Over?”
Travis does what he does best on “Is It Still Over?” From the twangy melody to Travis’ deep voice, the song boasts well-written lyrics about a man who’s caught between a former flame he’s still not over and the desire to move on. It rightfully became his seventh consecutive No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and has stood the test of time as one of the singer’s best songs.
7. “Honky Tonk Moon”
Travis brings you directly into the story of “Honky Tonk Moon” with his engaging voice that makes one feel like they’re standing next to him at the pool table at the honky tonk. We then follow him and his love out into the cool and dark woods at twilight where troubles seem to melt away. My heart’s on a roll / I’m easy in my soul / There’s no hurry / No worry / Things are goin’ my way, he croons, “Honky Tonk Moon” making for a memorable moment in his catalog.
8. “Deeper Than the Holler”
Following their success with “Forever and Ever, Amen,” songwriters Schlitz and Overstreet teamed up again to deliver another quality song for Travis, this time with “Deeper Than the Holler.” With a love song that’s set in the South, Travis uses tall pine trees, a strong river and the depths of the holler to convey how vast his love is for the woman he adores. “Deeper Than the Holler” solidified itself as his eighth No. 1 hit.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Music Nashville