Stroke Survivor Drake White Hosts Sold-Out Benefit for the Brain Concert With Riley Green, Randy Houser & More
In total, “Benefit for the Brain” raised over a whopping $253,000 for various organizations.
Drake White, Riley Green, Randy Houser; Photos by Zack Knudsen
Country soul singer Drake White hosted his first-ever “Benefit for the Brain” at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium on Monday, August 28 to raise awareness and funds for brain and mental health. The evening included performances by White, Riley Green, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, and surprise guest Colbie Caillat.
The cause is profoundly personal for White, who collapsed on stage due to a hemorrhagic stroke in August 2019. That medical emergency left him partially paralyzed and later diagnosed with the rare vascular disorder, Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). Doctors told White that he may never perform again. After a series of operations to repair his AVM and several months of physiotherapy, White re-learned how to walk, talk, and play the guitar again.
The “Making Me Look Good Again“ singer made a triumphant return to the road in 2022, spreading his infectious positivity to fans when he embarked on his headline THE OPTIMYSTIC TOUR. His latest album, THE OPTIMYSTIC, is an inspiring glimpse into the journey he has taken over the past few years.
Earlier this month, White paused to reflect on the four-year anniversary of his stroke, sharing a video about his gratitude for the journey. He wrote, “Thank you for four years of prayers, four years of passion, perseverance, people, power, perspective, performances, pain, and purpose. Thank you, Lord for this life I get to live as a singer, songwriter, father, and husband. Thank you for your love for me and allowing me to live another day! Happy 4 years everybody !! Everything else is a bonus !!”
Now, White is using his experience to give back. His “Benefit for the Brain” is focused on benefitting and promoting three key areas: military personnel and their families with a focus on PTSD and other related issues; child and adolescent brain health; and progressive research into alternative brain and stroke treatments, with distribution by White’s Big Fire Fund 501(c)(3) charity organization.
Throughout the event, representatives from organizations such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Miracle Hope Foundation shared the importance of their mission and how they help people who have experienced brain or mental health challenges.
Drake White walked onto the Ryman Auditorium stage to a standing ovation and thunderous applause from the crowd, who had just watched a video documenting White’s recovery journey since 2019. He then started the show by performing his song “50 Years Too Late,” followed by his hits “It Feels Good” and “Mix ‘Em With Whiskey.”
One of the most poignant moments of the night was when White sang “The Coast is Clear,” the same song he was singing when he experienced his hemorrhagic stroke on stage in Roanoke, Virginia four years ago. He then asked for the house lights to be turned down and asked the crowd to hold up the flashlights from their phones.
“Isn’t it funny how when we start shining our light in the same direction that you can see?” White asked. “Cause there can’t be no darkness where there is light, amen? Ah mother church, mother church,” he preached. White began to sing “This Little Light of Mine” as the entire auditorium was lit by the lights of cell phones swaying in the air.
Guest performer Randy Houser entertained the crowd with his introspective hit “Note to Self,” followed by a brand new song. “It’s something that’s been on my mind for a little while, and I thought this would be a good place to work it out first,” Houser shared. “So if you want to film it, jump on and post that shit,” he said with his signature laugh. Nearly seven minutes long, “Devil Wants to Cancel” lauds the virtues of a Christian life seemingly under attack by cancel culture.
Houser sings: “I’m a God fearing man/ Breaking my bread at the breakfast table/ Bowing my head cause I’m willing and able/ Taking the hand of the woman I love/ Holding it tighter when the times get tough/ Teaching our kids how the good Lord blessed us/ Calling out the stuff that the world done messed up/ Right is right and god is the answer/ Living this life the devil wants to cancel”
Following Houser’s performance, White returned to the stage to sing “All Would be Right With the World” before the next guest took the stage.
Riley Green performed the title track of his upcoming album, My Last Rodeo, which is due to be released on October 13. He then performed his hit “I Wish Grandpas Never Died.”
After Green’s performance, the non-profit CreatiVets described their mission of helping veterans through the healing power of music before White returned to the stage to perform “Legends Never Die.”
Guest performer Jamey Johnson then took the stage to perform a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Write Your Own Songs,” which is essentially a middle finger to executives on Music Row. Johnson sang, “We’re making you rich and you’re already lazy/ So just lay on your ass and get richer or write your own songs”
The seemingly odd song choice for the benefit concert was met with approval from the crowd before Johnson performed his hit “In Color” alongside Riley Green.
White then returned to the stage to close out the evening with an additional six songs, including “Power of a Woman” with surprise guest Colbie Caillat.
The defining moment of the night was when White stepped away from the microphone with his two guitar players to perform “The Optimystic” using just the acoustics of the room to amplify the sound.
White closed out the evening with a cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” an appropriate sentiment for the collaborative spirit of the night.
Like watching a phoenix rise from the ashes, seeing White return to his calling of writing and performing was chill-inducing. As much as he had to celebrate personally, White used the occasion to shine a light on others, raising awareness and funds for organizations that help people with similar experiences as his.
The inaugural “Benefit for the Brain” follows the release of White’s latest single “Ladder to the Sky.” White teased the demo on Instagram and wrote, “I’m guilty of always pushing to what’s next. This is to remind me that we control very little in this life . Just keep climbing , and you’ll end up exactly where you need to be.”
This fall, White will co-headline the BLOW UP YOUR TV TOUR with rising Texas country artist William Clark Green. Starting October 20 in Fort Worth, Texas, the pair will make stops in Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Minneapolis and more before finishing December 9 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
White and Green explained on Instagram that the co-headlining run was motivated by their shared desire to disconnect people from their devices, and re-connect them to each other. Their musical mission also inspired a new collaborative song, which will be released soon.
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