Oct. 7, 2000, was a bittersweet day for Chris LeDoux and his family. It was on that date, 20 years ago today, that the rodeo and music star underwent a liver transplant in Omaha, Neb., after being diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a disease of the bile ducts.
When news spread that LeDoux needed a transplant, Garth Brooks quietly offered to donate a portion of his liver. Although Brooks’ liver was found incompatible, the generous offer came as part of a long-standing friendship — and mutual admiration — between the two singers. Brooks’ debut single, “Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)” referenced LeDoux in the lyrics: “The competition’s getting younger / Tougher broncs, you know I can’t recall / A worn-out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze / Seem to be the only friends I’ve left at all.”
Although LeDoux had had success on his own, releasing more than 20 albums prior to Brooks’ first single, he credited the then-rising country star with giving him national exposure: “And here he comes along and mentions the worn-out tapes in his song,” LeDoux said of Brooks.
“To me, Garth, he’s kind of like my guardian angel,” LeDoux added. “It’s like every time I need some help, he’s there.”
Brooks and LeDoux teamed up for the title track of LeDoux’s Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy album. The song became the most successful single of LeDoux’s career, peaking at No. 7 on the charts.
LeDoux spent six weeks in the hospital after his transplant and released two more albums, After the Storm and Horsepower, following his surgery. In 2004, he was diagnosed with cancer in his bile duct; he died of the disease on March 9, 2005, at the age of 56.
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