Joey + Rory's Chart History, From Their Debut Album to the Bittersweet Success of 'Hymns'
Joey Martin Feek, after battling cervical cancer since 2014, passed away on Friday, March 4, surrounded by friends and family at her home in Indiana. She was 40 years old. Feek, half of the country duo Joey + Rory, was first diagnosed with cancer in May of 2014. Following aggressive treatment including radiation and chemotherapy, she relapsed in 2015, with the cancer being considered terminal. At that point, Feek elected to cease treatments, returning to Indiana and entering hospice care.
Husband and duo partner Rory Feek, who has been chronicling the pair's journey through his blog posts, wrote just after his wife passed: “At 2:30 this afternoon, as we were gathered around her, holding hands and praying….my precious bride breathed her last. And a moment later took her first breath on the other side.”
Joey and Rory, married in 2002, have one daughter together, Indiana, who just turned 2 years old on Feb. 17.
The duo had bittersweet success in the final weeks of Joey’s life. Its latest album, Hymns (released Feb. 12), bowed atop both the Top Country Albums and Top Christian Albums charts (dated March 5), giving the pair its first leader on each list. The inspirational album sold 68,000 copies in its opening week, according to Nielsen Music, the duo's best sales week. On the all-genre Billboard 200, the LP debuted at No. 4 (with 70,000 in equivalent album units), Joey + Rory's best career showing on the survey. The album is already the best-selling Christian/gospel set of 2016 so far, with 106,000 sold.
"No one is more surprised that our Hymns record has sold this many copies than Joey and I," Rory told Billboard upon hearing the good news. "For the last few months, we've been in Indiana, far away from the music business, living and sharing the story of our personal journey through my blog. We haven't been promoting our careers at all. The only way I can explain the sales of this record is that it's a byproduct of something bigger: love.”
Joey recorded the vocals for the Hymns set in the summer of 2015, while still undergoing medical treatments. The 13-track country inspirational set includes traditional titles such as “The Old Rugged Cross,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “When I’m Gone,” which was originally released in 2012 on the His and Hers LP.
Penned by Sandy Lawrence, a friend of the duo, the song was written when Lawrence’s mother was gravely ill. Joey sang “Gone” from the perspective of the person who was dying. The track debuted on Hot Country Songs at No. 21 (Nov. 28, 2015), the highest career position on the survey for the duo. The same frame, “When I’m Gone” peaked at No. 7 on Country Digital Songs (27,000 downloads), and it has sold 57,000 to date.
Prior to the Hymns release, Joey + Rory logged seven appearances on Top Country Albums, with two top 10s: their debut set, 2008’s The Life of a Song (No. 10) and 2010's Album Number Two (No. 9).
On Hot Country Songs, the duo has made three appearances, including “When I’m Gone,” its top-charting visit. The song followed 2009’s “Cheater Cheater” (No. 30) and 2011’s “That’s Important to Me” (No. 51).
Billboard has learned that there will be a private funeral service for Joey Feek. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: Joey and Indy, P.O. Box 5471, Vancouver, WA 98668.