Randy Travis

Profiles of Aphasia: Randy Travis

It has been four years since Randy Travis’s stroke, and while he can’t speak, he can still sing a little bit. He recently treated people in Fort Worth, Texas to a few notes:

We’ve been profiling well-known people with aphasia, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gabby Giffords. We’re now turning our attention to country singer, Randy Travis.

A Stroke in 2013

Randy Travis experienced a stroke in 2013 that has left him unable to speak or move without assistance. He spent 2 1/2 years in daily therapy to regain the ability to do basic tasks.

His personality hasn’t changed. As People magazine reported this summer,

Every fan earned the Travis charisma, the warm smile that was made for the stage, the eyes that are still lit from within. Mary Davis Travis offered strong assurances that her husband’s mental faculties are exactly as they were before the stroke.

“The memory is as sharp as it ever was,” she says. “Everything’s up there, it’s just the aphasia [loss of speech] and getting it out that’s the frustrating part.”

Singing But Not Speaking

Travis has severe aphasia, but he’s still able to sing a few words at a time. It’s an idea also explored in the documentary Still Sophie, which is currently still making its way around the film festival circuit. Sophie speaks haltingly after her stroke, but she’s able to fluidly sing “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”



While Travis does not perform often, he returned to the Grand Ole Opry last year to sing “Amazing Grace”:

He keeps returning to the stage because he wants to connect with fans, and as his wife states: “Fortunate to still be here and still fighting. Hope we can give other people hope.”

Image: EMR via Flickr via Creative Commons license



  • Jane Knight
    October 10, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Thank you for these profiles! For too long people with aphasia have disappeared from society, and I cannot express my gratitude and admiration adequately to people like Gabby, Randy, and Sophie who bravely tell their stories and let us know they’re still here. Words will always be inadequate to describe their spirits.

    “where words fail, music speaks” -Hans Christian Anderson. As a speech pathologist, I can attest to the power that music has in recovery of language.
    For anyone wanting to try and view Still Sophie at upcoming film festivals, you can find the schedule on https://www.facebook.com/stillsophie/

  • Shirley
    October 15, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    My sister just suffered a left side ischemic stroke and has aphasia . . . it’s just been 3 days since the illness and we have seen no progress yet. She is being moved from ICU to step-down and possible transferred to a long term care facility by this coming weekend. Our hearts are broken, but I am encouraged by reading the story above regarding Randy Travis.

  • A
    October 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Shirley, don’t be discouraged. This journey may be long to recovery, but there is much progress to be made and a life after stroke. Keep encouraging your sister as she will need your encouragement.

  • Metru Ma'at Hotep
    October 19, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    I used play my violin and sing professionally at shows, festivals, even on Off-Broadway but stroke separated my voice too.
    I had stroke 4 and 1/2 years ago. Aphasia is not funny but I learned to live with it. I can sing again and Mr. Travis can sing as well. Keep going forward my fellow musician always!!!

    I can play violin again as well. #speechclasshelpmeoutalot #thanksrehabalways

  • Andy Polon
    October 19, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    I am 15 years out from my left brain stroke. I was a fingerstyle guitarist before, and a working member of Local 802.
    I have worked hard to rebuild my language centers using my right brain space. Since my right hand & arm is non-functional, Guitar is a past tense event.
    I was a big Merle Travis style player before , however I have been able to rebuild my articulation and some of my spelling. Fortunately my ability to read can back quickly, which is rare, I have been told.
    I understand all too well the frustrations of being disabled . But I have been able to use my intensity to correct my ackward (spell?). And life is long if you have goals.

  • Andy Polon
    October 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Please change the can to came,thanks

  • alexander
    October 19, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you for your informative information, I am in my mid 70′, living in Scotland, UK. I have very mild Aphasia, and if Words were trains, I would say I am always at the station on time, but mostly waiting for the next train coming along, or a substitute, a few seconds later, as they always do. Albeit often causing much fluster. But it has taken me some 18 years or so to realise this, and cost me jobs, as the Medics have never mentioned Aphasia, always saying that I must have early onset, Alzheimers or such like, and losing my memory. But bah, to them now, thanks to your ‘on line’ detail, I now know differently, and am more at ease with my condition these days. Although I must say, while I like singing, and can hit the right chord, I think, remembering words of modern songs, is beyond me. May the force be with Randy Travis, and thanks, Alexander Maclorn Lawson.

  • Rebecca
    October 19, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    This message is for Shirley, whose sister just suffered a stroke. I just wanted to tell you that I’m going to pray for your sister and for you and your family.
    Much love to you all.

  • Diana Ruvolo
    October 19, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    My son, 49, suffered both a ischemic and a hemorragic strokes at the same time August 29, 2016. My son also had a heart transplant 19 years ago. After the strokes and being on life support and having brain surgery, he was left with paralysis on his right side and unable to speak. He spent over six months in rehab and now he is home with me. He walks with a brace and hemi walker. He has Aphasia and he is speaking somewhat. My son goes to outpatient therapy for speech, PT and OT. My son is a fighter and has a great support team. It is so encouraging to read the stories of Randy and Sophie.

  • Alexis Watterson
    June 1, 2019 at 10:40 am

    I have Stroke, Teacheotomy, Aphasia and Apraxia. September 7, 2011.
    Right: Brain ~ hand, ankle, knuckle, elbow, fingernails, thumb, foot, toe, knee, thigh and calf.

    Dave Watterson:
    Stroke Awareness Hudson River Swim for Alexis

    8 Bridges Swim. My stage of the 8 Bridges swim is coming up in about two weeks. Will try to swim from the Bear Mountain Bridge to the Tappan Zee Bridge, right past Alexis’ hometown of Croton on Hudson. It’s a 19.8 mile swim, so the distance is intimidating, but I will give it all I can. I have watched Alexis work to recover from her stroke, I can put up with a day in the Hudson.

  • Margaret Breen
    June 3, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    I am a Massive Ischemic – Hemorrhagic Stroke Survivor left side effecting my right with numbness burning arm legs both feet and hands weakness no reflexes drop foot – feet hands feel like ice my sensory was damaged badly as Stroke was in my thalamus cerebral/cortex and pons of brain with a clot and a bleed of brain also live with Aphasia — found singing very relaxing and has helped my speech although have trouble reading with bad vision at times and blockage in carotid artery and temporal arteritis but we are fighters although lately get very exhausted – as I watch Travis and how his wife supports him tremendously is so wonderful- they both are true inspirations .. I walk now with my cane and can not write that good anymore but that’s fine- I still have problems swallowing and drooling but comes and goes and still know when having a seizure. As after stroke had 3 bad ones. But in my eyes we are all Survivors we are here thank you god to tell our stories. God Bless us all. amen.

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