Editor’s Note: A random Uber ride connected MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson with Uber driver Shondell Howse. During that short trip from the office to Bridgestone Arena, she shared her story, reminding us all of the impact a song can have.
Thomas Rhett’s signature tune, “Die A Happy Man,” the story of a man who needs nothing more than his woman’s “crazy love,” was inspired by his wife, Lauren (Gregory) Akins.
Though the song was intensely personal for Thomas Rhett (and for co-writers Sean Douglas and Joe Spargur), the song’s romantic message has touched countless listeners. One of those listeners is Nashville native Shondell Howse.
“The first time I heard it, it was the beat I noticed. I listened to it and instantly I called my mom. I said, ‘I just heard this song and you’ve got to hear it.’ I started listening to the words and I was like, ‘Wow, you can tell this man truly loves his wife.’”
Snippets from the song’s lyrics closely resembled her relationship with husband Quincy “Q” James. Shondell met James in Murfreesboro. The couple was together for seven years before they wed on Sept. 22, 2007.
“It’s just little bits and pieces of that song that really I relate to because of my husband. Dancing around the fireplace is something we used to do in our apartment. Driving a sports car up the coast of California, I always wanted to do that. When Quincy and I went to Las Vegas one year, we got a convertible and drove it across the California line, just to say we had been to California,” she recalls. “He had a love for music. We would always ride and listen to music.”
Unbeknownst to either of them, Quincy had an undiagnosed heart condition, and passed away suddenly in August 2010.
She credits “Die A Happy Man” as a source of comfort and good memories of a husband Shondell says taught her to love.
“He would always say, ‘If I die today, I’m ok.’” Shondell recalls. “There was nothing he wanted more than for me to be his wife. The one thing he would say is, ‘As long as I’ve got your hand, I’m fine. I’m happy.’
“I think about that song and smile. It gives me comfort knowing he was happy when he passed away. He knew I totally loved him.”
Shondell also says the song reignited her love for country music. “I love country music and I appreciate it. I love artists that are open-minded and now it’s reaching out to all people. If it continues to reach out to all people, I can see it helping our country heal as a whole,” she says, citing Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” as another touching track.
“If we could all live the way he sings in that song, and just follow those simple instructions, how wonderful would the world be? That’s what makes the world go around, is love. Country music gives us love. It’s about every day life, and you never know who you will touch with that music.”
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