Since bringing the music world to tears last Thursday while performing his tribute song, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost,” to his late son, Jerry, on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” Craig Morgan has been inundated with widespread support from fans and artists, empathizing with the country crooner in his bereavement.
The last evening Morgan spent with his 19-year-old son was during one of his performances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., three years ago.
“The last pictures I have of us together [are] on that stage,” Morgan, 55, said backstage at the Opry this week. “So this is a very special place. It was anyway before, but now it has additional meaning, knowing this is where we hung out together.”
His son, Jerry, was home visiting from college when he died in a drowning accident on Kentucky Lake in July 2016.
Morgan came back to the Opry this past summer to sing the tribute song he wrote about his son.
He sang about crying until he passed out, praying until he thought he couldn’t anymore and realizing that one day he’ll be reunited with his son.
Morgan stepped off stage, physically and emotionally exhausted from the performance, and told his friend Ricky Skaggs, the bluegrass singer and Country Hall of Famer, that he didn’t know if he could sing that song again.
“Ricky told me, ‘You have to sing this song for the rest of your life,'” Morgan recalled.
Morgan’s first song in three years has now been championed by his peers at the Opry and the music community at large.
His friend and fellow Opry member Blake Shelton spent several days tweeting about the song and urging his 20 million followers to download the track from iTunes and push it up the charts.
Soon other celebrities — including Clarkson, Ellen DeGeneres, Luke Combs and Carson Daly — joined Shelton’s impromptu social media campaign.
The song hit No. 3 on Billboard’s country digital song sales without the help of a label or radio play.
Craig Morgan performs at Ryman Auditorium on March 21, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
“I didn’t even know what was happening,” Morgan said. “I was in Alaska and had no idea what was going on until I started getting texts from everyone.”
Morgan, an Army veteran who has had hits like “That’s What I Love About Sunday” and “Redneck Yacht Club,” said that since releasing the song, he’s been reading the hundreds of messages sent daily to him by fans who identify with the grief and pain, but also the hope that he described in the song.
“I felt a push,” he said. “I felt shoved to do this, and not by people. For me, it was God.”
The song lyrics are also a reference to Morgan’s conversion to Roman Catholicism, which his family, including Jerry, had been going through at the time of the teen’s death.
Morgan’s faith and religious education are something he leaned on heavily over the past three years, he said.
“And I know I’ll see my son again because I know his faith,” Morgan said.
Morgan, who announced in September a new record deal with Broken Bow Records, said that the song has given him a purpose to help comfort others, especially people who have lost a child, and that this was always God’s plan.
“You know, the thing is, I would much rather none of this stuff happen and him to be able to be here,” Morgan added. “But that’s not the way it is. And now he’s in a place where what’s happening has a different meaning.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.