Blake Shelton has sad history that many of his fans don’t know. Shelton lost his big brother, Richie Shelton, when Blake was just 14. And the loss was so profound that he still gets emotional speaking about it. An odd thing for a guy who is known for singing about whiskey, women, and tobacco. But it shows a softer side of Shelton that most of us rarely see. And it also gives insights into his depth and even his music.
The Hero Big Brother
Raised in Ada, Oklahoma, Blake Shelton was the youngest of the three kids. He grew up with his older sister, Endy, and older brother, Richie. In a 60 Minutes interview, Shelton spoke about how he looked up to Richie as any younger brother would. “His bedroom was right across the hallway from mine when I was little,” Blake recalled. “And he was listening to Hank Williams, Jr. or Waylon, Lynyrd Skynyrd or Bob Seeger. I just, whatever was popular really, Richie loved all music. And I would be sitting there going, “Man, that guy’s my hero. That’s the coolest guy. He’s my big brother.”
The Loss of Richie
But when Blake Shelton was just 14, Richie died in a car accident. He was just 24 at the time. Shelton also told 60 Minutes how difficult it was for him to come to terms with. “I remember picking up the phone to call him a week after he was dead, to tell him something. I was picking up the phone to call him, to tell him something I just saw on TV or, and it was like constantly a shock to me that he was dead.”
He went on to say that his father told him he would never get over the loss– he would just “have to get used to it.” Blake Shelton discovered his father was correct. He later wrote “Over You” with ex-wife Miranda Lambert as a tribute to Richie. That 2011 song showed the level of grief Shelton continued to experience.
In a 2012 interview with People, Lambert reflected on the inspiration for “Over You.” After Richie died, Blake said Christmas wasn’t fun for a long time because of all the memories-the presents and the time together and then it all just going black in your mind,” she said. “Blake would always drive around with his brother singing along to Travis Tritt and Hank Jr. Blake’s dad gave him all of Richie’s tapes, and Blake would just listen to them and hear Richie’s voice.”
She also shared, “We laughed when we wrote this because Blake was like, ‘Richie would’ve been so pissed I got all those records.”
And just last year, Blake Shelton honored his brother again. On the Nov. 13 anniversary of Richie’s death, he tweeted, “Lost my brother 27 years ago today. I was only 14 at the time but it changed my life forever… Made me realize that life is precious and there’s no time like RIGHT NOW to go for it… We still miss you Richie!!”
One can only wonder if Richie’s penchant for artists like Hank Williams, Jr. and Travis Tritt inspired Blake to sing country music songs. And if Richie’s death also gave Blake more motivation to pursue his dreams and take risks. Either way, the loss of his brother clearly had a significant effect on Shelton— one that is present even today.