Randy Huston Honors Fallen Soldiers in Poignant New Song “The Hands That Held the Child”

Emotional Ballad Inspired by Powerful Duke Sundt Sculpture

Written by Deborah Evans Price
Randy Huston Honors Fallen Soldiers in Poignant New Song “The Hands That Held the Child”

As our nation honors our military on Veteran’s Day, singer/songwriter Randy Huston is issuing a poignant new ballad that spotlights a mother’s love and soldier’s sacrifice. “The Hands That Held the Child” was inspired by a sculpture of the same name by Duke Sundt and through Huston’s performances has been warmly embraced by Gold Star families.

   “We have a couple sets of friends that are Gold Star parents,” Huston says of the organization of families who have lost a loved one in service to our country. “Becky Christmas is a Gold Star mother, and she was the President of the National Gold Star Mothers in 2019. She talked to Duke about sculpting a monument for the Gold Star Mothers and Duke came up with the sculpture.”

   The statue depicts a heartbroken mother holding a folded American flag. “Duke and I have been friends forever and he will show me stuff that he’s working on,” Huston tells SLN. “I thought, ‘Oh my golly! This is awesome! What are you going to call it?’ He said, ‘The Hands That Held the Child,’ and I said, ‘Duke, that’s a song and it’s a really good song!’ So, I asked him if he wanted to write it with me. He does old cowboy songs and stuff, but he hadn’t done any songwriting. He said, ‘Yeah I guess so, we can try that.’ Well, I tried and tried and tried, but Duke didn’t end up helping me write it. Duke does get credit though because it is his title.”

   When Huston finished the song, he sent it to Christmas and didn’t hear anything from her for a few days. “I recorded it on my iPhone and sent it to her with just me on guitar,” he recalls. “We’re good friends and she always responds if I call or text. I got no response and I thought, ‘Yikes I probably really blew it on this song.’”

   It had been more than a decade since the Christmas family had lost their son Todd, and the song struck a powerful chord with Becky.  When she finally responded to Huston, she said, “I’ll call you later today, I wasn’t able to call you yesterday because I haven’t cried this much since Todd died. You nailed it.”

Randy Huston; Photo Credit: Bill Patterson

   When the statue was unveiled at an event for Gold Star mothers, Huston performed “The Hands That Held the Child.” “I played it when they dedicated the monument for the Gold Star Mothers who were there. It was such an honor,” he says. “But it’s intimidating to sing it in front of Gold Star mothers.  You can’t imagine how difficult that is. There were maybe 20 Gold Star mothers there right in front while I’m singing this, and then I was asked to perform it at their National Convention and the whole big room is just full of Gold Star mothers. It’s like, ‘Gosh, how do I get through this?’ I say lots of prayers and steel myself and so far, I’ve been able to do it, but there have been a couple of performances in front of regular crowds where I get choked up and have to start again or pause a little bit. It’s powerful. It’s very sad.”

   Huston didn’t shy away from sharing the song’s heartbreaking message. “As I was writing it, I thought this topic is sad and serious and I’m not going to sugar coat it,” he says. “I’m just going to hit it head on and if it’s too sad for people to listen to so be it, I’ve said what I want to say.”

   Huston also shot a video for the song on his iPhone. “I have a smart phone and I carry it with me all the time of course, so I’m always shooting video” he says. “A bunch of that in the video was stuff that I had already shot and knew what I wanted to show. It was all mine, and it was fast.  I did it quickly.  I intend, when the song is released as a single, to do a different one or a better one.  I’ll use a lot of the same stuff, but I also want to include some of the real Gold Star families and friends and make it a little more personal.”

  In putting together the initial video, Huston included two of his young grandsons. “At the very beginning there is a little boy in a Marine uniform who goes and answers the door, that’s my oldest grandson Benjamin,” Huston says, “and then later on in the video there’s this still photo of two little boys sitting on a couch in Marine uniforms and those are my grandsons Benjamin and Jacob.”

     “The Hands That Held the Child” will be included in Huston’s upcoming album Times Like These. At press time, a firm release date had yet to be set, but Huston plans to have it out by the end of the year. The new album will include another song with ties to the military. “I Am the Storm” is a powerful song that addresses war from a soldier’s perspective. “I was not in the military, but I certainly had several family members that were, including my dad,” Huston says. “My son-in-law was a Marine and actually is a Marine because I think once a Marine, you’re always a Marine, but he’s no longer serving.”

   As his previous albums have done, Times Like These will celebrate his way of life as a working cowboy. A former equine veterinarian, Huston lives in New Mexico and has a working cattle ranch. His previous album, Cowboys and Girls, was recognized by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum with its Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Album. It also was named Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Music Awards. Named the Academy of Western Artists Male Vocalist of the Year in 2010, Huston’s songs have been featured on the History Channel’s special “Cowboys and Outlaws,” part of which was filmed on his ranch for the section titled “The Real Lonesome Dove.” 

   His new 14-song album opens with “Way of the Cowboy.” “All of my life has been a life around horses,” Huston says. “When I was a kid growing up on ranches, I gravitated to the horses. We use them for our work, but in any ranch community or on any pretty good-sized ranch, there will be one or two people who are really horse oriented beyond what most of the other cowboys are and I was one of those guys.  I was really drawn to the horses, so besides doing all of the rest of the ranch work, as soon as I was old enough, I started being the guy to ride the young horses and work the young horses and that connection that humans have to the horse is something that I have never been able to describe.”

   Huston says he tried to describe that connection in a new song called “Reflections.” “There’s just something magic about looking in a horse’s eye or looking at a horse. It brings peace,” Huston says. “It’s like they see your heart. I’ve tried to write that song with other writers and by myself and I couldn’t write it. It was just too big of a topic. I didn’t know how to speak it and so one day I was thinking about that very thing. I was saddled up and I could see myself in my horse’s eye and I thought, ‘Well I wonder what he really sees,’ and then it took off from there. It was going to be a song about the horse, and I got through that first verse, and I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe this is about life all the way around. What other eyes am I reflected in and how do they see me and how do I think they see me?’ And there it went.”

   Huston enjoys a rewarding dual career as both a working rancher and award-winning singer/songwriter. “I don’t believe I could write the songs if I didn’t do the cowboy stuff,” says Huston, who also spent a few years in Nashville as a songwriter and publisher. “I’d write something probably, but certainly not what I am able to write. Unless I’m doing something that requires my brain to be focused, there is music going on all the time.  There’s a jukebox playing in my mind.”

   Huston recognizes the power a song has to honor those who are deserving, and he hopes “The Hands That Held the Child” will prompt people to pause and reflect on Veteran’s Day. “It’s a day to honor our veterans,” he says, “and it seems like in the last few years it has become more important to people than it used to be maybe 20 years ago or so. I really like to see that because I think it’s hugely important to honor the men and women who have been willing to serve our country.”