Granger Smith Offers Emotional Tribute to Late Son River at Country LakeShake [Watch]
Granger Smith offered an emotional tribute to his late son, River, on Sunday (June 23) at the 2019 Country LakeShake Festival in Chicago.
The "Damn Strait" singer has just resumed his live performance schedule for the first time since his 3-year-old son drowned at the Smith family home in Texas in early June, and he took the occasion on Sunday to perform a powerful rendition of his recently released song "Heaven Bound Balloons" in River's honor. The already-emotional lyrics describe writing letters to a departed loved one on a balloon and releasing it to go find them in heaven, and Smith's wrenching performance gave the song an extra emotional punch as he sang, "We miss you and we love you."
At the end of the tribute, Smith stood up and gazed out over the crowd before pulling River's Lightning McQueen toy car out of his pocket and looking down at it in his hand, then turning and walking quickly from the stage as the music continued to play.
According to People, he walked to the side of the stage, where he was seen with someone putting their arm around him. Smith also debuted another tribute to River during his LakeShake set, taking the stage with a new tattoo that reads "River" covering much of his right forearm.
Smith and his wife Amber have been very open with his fans since River's death, turning to YouTube to share a video in which they explained the impact on their family. The couple have two other children; a 7-year-old daughter named London and a 5-year-old son, Lincoln.
"London asked me how many days River lived. And I said, just over a thousand," Smith shared. "And I thought about that ... what if we all were given a thousand days? What if you were given a gift of a thousand days on this earth? And you could live those days barefoot, red hair flying back on your go-kart, on your tractor, full speed ahead?"
"If you could do that with your family around you, with no real cares in the world. that’s a good thousand days," he added. "That’s a good way to live. And I think that’s a huge example for me and Amber and how we’re going to move forward every single day."
Later in the video, Smith explained his decision to return to the road and bring his family with him.
“Music has always been healing. That’s the place I’ve always turned to," he said, adding that he won't be doing meet-and-greets with his fans for the time being. “I don’t think that’s the best place for me to be right now,” Smith acknowledged. “A, it’s going to be strange if we have to talk about River and B, it’s going to be even stranger if we don’t talk about River.”
Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line and Justin Moore are among the country artists who have offered tributes, prayers and condolences in the weeks since River's death. Smith and his fans have raised more than $200,000 through sales of a tribute T-shirt that Smith is selling through his apparel line. All the proceeds go to benefit Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, Texas, where the staff cared for River.
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