Country star on her grandfather and the power of music
Musician Lauren Alaina reaches fans across America with her soulful voice and achingly honest storytelling. Since her breakout run on “American Idol” in 2011, the multi-platinum selling singer/songwriter has released three albums, including last year’s “Sitting Pretty on Top of the World,” and headlined the Hallmark Channel’s 2021 film “Roadhouse Romance.”
Alaina recently contributed to the Alzheimer’s Association Music Moments
, a collection of songs from top artists that honor the connection between music and life’s most important moments. Alaina dedicated her performance to her grandfather Benny, who lived with Alzheimer’s for 15 years before he died in early 2022. She chose her hit song “Road Less Traveled” to share a message of self-love and positivity, and to inspire others impacted by the disease.
What was your grandfather like?
My grandparents helped raise me. My grandfather taught me how to play sports, and he always had a Snickers bar in his back pocket and would give me a bite of it. He bought me my first karaoke system and helped me pay for the first CD I made. He was such a champion of mine.
What were some of the first signs that your grandfather had Alzheimer's?
My grandmother passed unexpectedly when I was in fifth grade, and after that, my brother and I stayed with my grandfather a lot. We spent the most time with him, so unfortunately, the two children in this scenario noticed the signs pretty early on. He always took us to get ice cream and he would forget how to get home. He thought we were hiding his keys from him and he would get very irritated, which was not really his nature.
Who did you turn to for help?
Alzheimer's disease causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. If you notice any of the warning signs, don't ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Know the Signs
I remember telling my mom, ‘There’s something wrong with Papaw. He’s very confused.’ We had just lost my grandmother, so we weren’t sure if it was grief from that, but things just kept getting worse. He became more and more confused and couldn’t remember how to get to church or how to get home from our school, which was two turns. So my mom took him [to the doctor] and we found out he had Alzheimer’s.
What was the most difficult part of his diagnosis for you and your family?
It’s a pain that’s indescribable. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease because at first it attacks the individual and they’re aware of what’s happening. Then it completely rips them of their identity and their family is left with memories. The thing that we all have is our identity: the people that make up our lives, the things that make us happy, the things that make us sad. My Papaw lost all of those things.
Why did you choose 'Road Less Traveled' for Music Moments?
‘Road Less Traveled’ is about staying positive, taking your own path and believing in yourself. This disease is excruciating, and it can really put you down. People listening to this song are going to think, ‘Yeah, I can be brave, I can be strong, and I can get through this.’
Listen to Lauren's story and hear her song
How did music help you connect with Papaw?
I love being a songwriter because it gives me a greater connection with other people through my own heartache, celebration, sadness and happiness. Music always provided a way to connect to my grandfather when I would go visit him. I’d sit at the piano and sing him different songs, mostly Elvis. Music made him joyous and smile and dance. Music brought him joy, which brought me joy.