Both singers have signed on to the new campaign, Tune Up for COPD, a songwriting contest to find the next song that will help raise awareness of the disorder.
"My sister, Dottie, suffered from COPD for quite a few years before we knew what it was," Patty tells The Boot. "Hers was a form of emphysema, and she was 48 when she passed away. I think if she had had some kind of awareness about this disease and what was taking place with her body, and known that there was help out there, it would have made a difference; she would have been with us a lot longer."
"I learned at an early age from my grandfather, who was a pastor, both the impact COPD symptoms have on one's life and the power of a person's voice. I've taken those lessons with me throughout the years," Billy Ray reports. "I know music motivates people to take action, and that's why I'm asking America to help us find the next great song to drive awareness of COPD."
Asking songwriters to pen a song about COPD is just a part of the campaign to drive people to the COPD website, where they can take a a five-question test that will help them find out if they are at risk for COPD. Only amateur writers, folks who have never had a publishing deal or a recording contract, can enter the contest. Entrants are being asked to write a song that conveys a positive message and persuades people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
"Dottie was the one I looked up to when I was a young girl," Patty says of her late sister. "She was my first inspiration to want to become an entertainer. When I would hear her sing, it inspired me and we had so much fun together, singing and dancing. As years went on, this debilitating disease took over her body and I saw her become weaker and weaker. For her not to have that voice that she once had because she didn't have air to project, it was sad and hard to see. It was hard to lose my sister at such a young age. She was so full of life and such a caring person.
"If Dottie had been able to go to something like this website and get information, she would have been with us a lot longer," Patty continues. "It's a wonderful thing that all these companies and people are partnering with the COPD Foundation to raise awareness about the disease. Country music is now involved, NASCAR is involved ... there are so many other partners, and it's wonderful that they are coming aboard to help get word out."
Patty wrote the theme song for the original COPD campaign, 'Drive,' which brings a positive outlook to both people who have the disease and the family members who are helping them through it.
"It is very critical to catch this disease in the beginning stages," Patty explains. "A lot of people have a cough that doesn't go away, or go up and down stairs and get shortness of breath, and they don't think about COPD. They could have a problem though, and catching it in the beginning stages is crucial. When I was writing the song, I wanted people to get the message that you can put your hands on the wheel of your life. You are in the driver's seat, you can take hold. All you've got to do is get back to living a healthy life.
"I was trying to encourage people 35 and older and make them aware of going and taking the questionnaire on the COPD.com website. All that is not in the song but I did want to make it positive, fun and upbeat. Sometimes the song truly gets a message across when nothing else does. I feel like 'Drive' has done that; it's really revved people up and drove them to the website. Music is a wonderful way to get the message across. It's brought attention to this horrible disease. It is wonderful to be able to help educate people about our health and what can be done."
As for as advice to those who choose to enter the contest, Patty says, "First of all write about getting back to living life, taking hold of your life, and being in control of your health. This could be a wonderful opportunity to tap into that world of songwriting to further help spread the word about COPD and get your music heard. What better way for the person who wins this than to go through the likes of Billy Ray and myself to get the song heard by so many millions of people out there."
The winner gets to perform his or her song at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville this June. Judges for the contest will include Patty, Billy Ray, representatives from COPD and other industry VIPs. Fans will also have an opportunity to vote for their favorite song by logging into DRIVE4COPD.com and viewing the entries. One song will be deemed "Fan Favorite" as determined by the highest number of online votes that it gets.
All rules and regulations regarding the contest, which begins January 27, can be found on the DRIVE4COPD.com site. All videos and lyric sheets must be received by April 15. The winner will receive a three-day/two-night trip for two to attend the this year's CMA Music Fest and perform his/her winning song.
COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema or both, is a progressive disease which makes a person find it harder and harder to breathe. The disease kills more people every year than breast cancer and diabetes combined.