“It was an amazing experience, just going in and watching the faces,” said Rucker. “Those guys are in there, they’re vets, and they’re not feeling well. You get in there and you just play a song for them and just watch their faces, people smiling. You seem to just be making people happy for those two-and-a-half, three minutes that you’re playing. That was awesome.”
The organization Musicians On Call arranged last week’s visit as part of a nationwide effort to bring live and recorded music to patients. Rucker played a variety of songs during his visit, but his first No. 1 country hit, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” really struck a chord.
“You know it was wild to play ‘Don’t Think’ and to watch those guys sing along. That was a great moment,” he said.
A number of veterans sang the words, bobbed their heads and tapped their feet.
“It lifts your spirits,” said hospitalized veteran Gloria McCoy. “You’re in here by yourself most of the time ... somebody comes and sings to you like that, it’s very enjoyable.”
Some of the lyrics in Rucker’s song, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” talk about having regrets, saying “Don’t think it don’t get to me, between the work and the hurt and the whiskey.”
For veteran David Cannon, hearing the words made him tear up: “It got me, it did.”
“It really hit home with a couple guys,” said Rucker. “That one guy that got the tears, it was just, that’s why you write music, but you never really expect it to happen, and when it does, it’s a great feeling.”
Rucker played a benefit concert at the Hardrock Cafe in Nashville on Wednesday to raise money for Musicians on Call. He hopes the funds will enable more visits.
“I think all musicians should do this. I think everybody could do it, no matter what musical genre you’re from,” he said. “You see people at the hospital and you just expect that they have visitors all the time. For me, just to be a part of their day for a minute was such a great experience. Everytime I walked in the room, I just felt this is awesome. These people are letting me in their lives for a minute to let me play one of my songs. This was a day I’ll never forget.”
Rucker is the reigning CMA new artist of the year. His 2008 debut album, Learn To Live, has produced three consecutive No. 1 singles and a current Top 5 single, “History In The Making.” This week, he was nominated for the Academy of Country Music’s top male vocalist. The ACM awards are handed out April 18 in Las Vegas.