Collin Raye is a man of immense talent: a country singer with 24 top ten records and sixteen #1 hits. He’s been nominated ten times for Male Vocalist of the Year (5 CMA and 5 ACM).
But it’s not Collin’s fame or fortune, not his successful music career or his business acumen which have shaped him into the man of God he is today.
I knew this the first time I heard him tell his story, when I attended Ave Maria Radio’s 15th anniversary concert with Collin Raye. A few years later, I met up with him again in Dallas, where he was performing for the Catholic Marketing Network.
* * * * *
And now, it has been my great privilege to review Collin Raye’s new autobiography, A Voice UnDefeated, which was published by Ignatius Press.
Collin pulls no punches in telling his story. Sure, he describes his popularity, his fans, his meteoric rise to fame in the country music world; but he’s equally candid in describing his failed marriage, his alcohol abuse, his despair. He made many mistakes as a young man, and he owns up to them, secure in God’s love and His forgiveness.
Reading about the great tragedies in Collin’s life, one can imagine how he could, indeed, have felt lost and abandoned by God–but he did not. His brother’s serious accident and lengthy hospitalization; his parents’ divorce; the medical crisis which nearly cost his wife Connie her life and kept both her and their newborn in the hospital for months–and most especially, the crushing loss of his beloved nine-year-old granddaughter Haley to a mysterious neurological illness which baffled the doctors and tested the family’s courage: these things must have been difficult to understand, yet Collin relied on God–sustained by an unshakable faith.
* * * * *
If you simply want to know more about the country music scene, to live vicariously the adventures of life on the road, to experience the hot lights of the concert stage and the magnetism and the energy of the fans, this book can give you that.
The 32-page full-color photo album spotlights Collin Raye’s early life, his illustrious career in Nashville and the many stars with whom he shared the stage, and the family he loves.
The 41-minute CD which is included contains both a candid interview, and three bonus tracks of his popular songs “She’s With Me,” “Give Me Jesus” and “Undefeated.”
* * * * *
But there is more—A Voice Undefeated is the real-life story of Collin’s spiritual pilgrimage, from his Baptist roots to his conversion to the Catholic faith as a young adult.
I was especially drawn to two things in this spellbinding account: First, I loved reading about Collin’s first exposure to the Catholic Mass. And second, the solace he found in his mature faith when young Haley died.
Writing about his introduction to Catholicism, Collin describes how two devout Catholics had impressed him by their gentle witness, preparing him to embrace the Church:
I have to admit that Catholicism looked attractive to me at that point primarily because of Lil and Dick. They were witnesses of such a wholesome goodness that I wanted to see if their religion was the reason for it.
…The church was hardly large enough to hold a congregation of a hundred people, and my first impression from the outside was that everything was very neat and orderly. As I walkekd up the steps of the little rustic church on that Sunday morning, I was unprepared for the sensation that immediately came over me when we opened the door and walked through the small entranceway. I was half expecting to be greeted by some smiling person telling me how welcome I was there, but no one greeted me, and no one handed me a bulletin or a song sheet. Instead, as I walked over the threshold, my senses were invaded with the most profound sense of peace and comfort I had ever experienced in my life.
I hadn’t grown up with the sacraments as a normal part of worship, so I believe my senses were more attuned to the sacramental action of the Church than they might have been if I were a cradle Catholic. I was like an empty vessel into which God could pour His grace. What I felt can be described as a gentle but deep sense of awe and reverence that washed through me and over me and in me all at once. I will never forget it.
And the chapter dealing with Haley’s death is an unforgettable story of a grandfather’s love and faith. Reflecting on Haley’s passing, Collin writes:
I can testify very personally that the loss of Haley opened up a font of wisdom and love that matured me beyond any other experience of life. Families may plan for hurricanes or tornadoes, but no one ever plans for a personal disaster like this, and I was no exception. I believe that anyone who accompanies a loved one through such a traumatic event must figure out how to respond, but the real sacrifice is that–no matter what he does–there is never a perfect solution.
…The last word is always God’s, and that word is always love for those who strive to be faithful and true to Him. That’s why we praise him for all things, even the loss of our beloved Angel May.
A Voice UnDefeated is a story of fame, struggle, suffering, profound love and, ultimately, triumph in the midst of tragedy. I recommend it highly.