A gifted vocalist and songwriter who rose to her greatest fame in the last months of her life, Joey Feek was best known as half of the husband-and-wife vocal duo Joey + Rory. She was born Joey Marie Martin in Alexandria, Indiana on September 9, 1975. Joey began singing at an early age, encouraged by her father, and while she studied to be a veterinarian, when her career took her to Nashville, Tennessee, she began investigating the local music scene. Having made friends with Kix Brooks (of Brooks & Dunn) and Wilbur Rimes (father of LeAnn Rimes), she began playing songwriter's nights at Nashville clubs on a regular basis, where she met fellow aspiring songwriter Rory Lee Feek. In 2002, Rory and Joey were wed, and they continued to pursue their musical careers. Joey landed a record deal with Sony Nashville, and in 2005 she cut a solo album, Strong Enough to Cry. Unfortunately, what seemed to be Joey's big break fizzled when the label went through a reorganization that dropped her from the roster, and her album went unreleased. In 2008, Joey and her husband teamed up to appear on a TV music competition series, Can You Duet, where they first coined the name Joey + Rory. After finishing in third place on the show, the couple were offered a contract with Sugar Hill Records, who released their debut album, The Life of a Song, in October 2008. The album was a commercial success, and Joey + Rory went on to release four more albums through Sugar Hill before releasing two gospel-oriented albums through Gaither Music Group and a secular set, Made to Last, through their own Farmhouse imprint.
Despite the duo's success, their lives were touched by tragedy: in May 2014, three months after giving birth to a daughter, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was declared free of the disease several months later after surgery, but in July 2015, it was revealed that her cancer had not only returned, it had metastasized to her colon. Despite further surgery and treatment, doctors announced Joey's diagnosis was terminal, and there was a tremendous outpouring of support for her in the country music press and Christian blogosphere. Joey documented her battle with cancer in her blog, This Life I Live, and she and Rory cut their final album, 2016's Hymns That Are Important to Us, in hotel room sessions while traveling to receive treatment. It went on to become their most successful album, rising to number one on the country charts and number four on the pop charts. It also earned them a Grammy award for Best Roots Gospel Album. On March 4, 2016 Joey Feek died, and had a private funeral on the farm where she and Rory lived. In April 2017, Joey's long-shelved album for Sony, retitled If Not for You, received a belated release via Farmhouse Records. ~ Mark Deming