Brett Eldredge Dedicates Song to Late Grandmother with Alzheimer's: 'How Do I Make Sense of This?'
When Brett Eldredge was signing his first record deal, it was a bittersweet moment in his life. While he was kickstarting his career in country music, his grandmother, one of his biggest fans from day 1, was having her memories stolen by Alzheimer’s disease.
“I remember that feeling of, ‘How do I even make sense of this?’ [My grandmother] was somebody who knew everything about me my whole life,” Eldredge says in a new video by the Alzheimer’s Association revealed exclusively by PEOPLE.
So he “chased down” the emotions he was feeling through his grandmother’s diagnosis, and wrote a song dedicated to her that was inspired by the 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
“I wrote and tried to work through it and cope with it in that way,” the “The Long Way” singer, 33, says.
He called the song “Raymond,” and it told the story of a man who continuously visits an assisted living facility where one of the patients thinks he is her son because she is living with dementia.
“When she calls me Raymond, she thinks I’m her son,” Eldredge sings in the song’s chorus. “Tells me get washed up for supper, before your daddy gets home. She goes on about the weather, how she can’t believe it’s already 1943. She calls me Raymond, and that’s all right by me.”
“Instead of saying ‘You know, I’m not your son,’ and making her feel wrong for having some disease or not being able to remember, he goes along with it and it keeps a smile on her face,” Eldredge says of the song, which also draws from his own personal experience of singing hymns in nursing homes.
Eldredge opened up about the song, which was first released in 2011, as part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Music Moments” initiative, which features a collection of new recordings and unreleased tracks by award-winning artists to honor the personal, emotion connection between music and life’s most important moments that no one would never want to lose to Alzheimer’s or a related form of dementia. As part of the initiative, Eldredge re-recorded a new version of the ballad and dedicated it to his grandmother, who has since passed away.
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“My grandmother was the most amazing, selfless person I think I have ever known,” he says. “It’s almost like she never even took time for herself because she was giving so much love to everybody else and her family and that’s all she cared about. I still see her face in the crowd now even though she’s not here anymore. It’s that powerful of a thing to have somebody there for you, and she was there for me from beginning to end.”
Eldredge is joined by nine other artists in the campaign to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, including Lee Ann Womack, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Sting, each of whom recorded a song for the collection.
“From the moment I watched my grandmother go through this, I knew that I wanted to help make sure that others didn’t have to go through seeing somebody struggling with Alzheimer’s disease,” Eldredge says in the video. “I really do feel that we are going to find a day when Alzheimer’s is no more, and we will sing a lot more songs about it.”
Fans can share their own experiences with Alzheimer’s and music using the hashtag #MyMusicMoment on social media to raise awareness for the tragic disease.
The Music Moments album is available for streaming beginning Friday, March 13 at 7 a.m.