Cody Johnson Details Scary 5-Hour Neck Surgery He Had Last Year: “I Was Crying… I Couldn’t Lift My Right Arm”

Cody Johnson country music

One of 2021’s best albums came in the form of Cody Johnson’s Human: The Double Album last October.

Featuring songs that were deeply human, as the title suggests, Johnson included works honoring his wife, his family, and his faith. Looking back on the year leading up to the album, Cody Johnson should have been on a high from the collaboration of his hard work and success, however, it appears that the year may have been filled with major difficulties for the artist, and that the true story of Human comes from his journey of overcoming.

In Johnson’s sold-out Rodeo Houston 2022 show, he took time to sit down and talk to the fans, something that COVID-19 protocols had basically put a stop to for the previous two years. Atop a barstool, Johnson relayed the story of a major health battle many did not even know he was fighting.

“If you’ve seen me play a show since the year 2017 up ‘til last year, you’ve seen me on stage acting like everything is okay, but I was in absolutely excruciating pain.”

He went on to describe that pain started in his fingers and worked its way up his shoulder and neck, leaving him with tingling and burning sensation that eventually led to the inability to use his fingers.

He described a terrifying morning in 2021, several days before Christmas when his wife, Brandi, found him lying on the floor in tears, unable to use his hand to work the doorknob. Brandi, the inspiration behind tracks such as “Stronger” and “Known for Loving You” on the Human album, stuck to her guns telling Johnson, “Enough is enough,” before taking him to Houston Methodist Hospital for tests.

After further exploration by the doctors there, Johnson was told that he would be going into surgery immediately or risk losing the function of his right arm—an alarming prognosis for anyone, but especially someone who plays guitar for a living. In his retelling, Johnson said:

“I started thinking about what it would be like to not be able to go [strums guitar], I started thinking about what it would be like to not be able to put my arm around my wife, or pick my daughters up, or swing a rope to work my horses.”

Johnson, known for being grounded by family, immediately consented to the surgery after these considerations.

The 5 ½ hour surgery was aimed at fixing a neck fracture he had sustained while bull riding years prior, and his 4-month, doctor-ordered recovery included rehabilitation on areas of his spinal cord, leaving him completely stationary while wife Brandi took on the role of primary caregiver.

In previous interviews, Johnson had always been quick to note Brandi’s strength and support, saying that she had taken on two jobs to support him when he pursued music full time.

“And we didn’t make any money for the first two years. That woman is down. That woman is down for the cause.”

After a near-loss experience with his arm and watching again as his wife held things together for their family, it’s easy to see how Johnson’s album manifested.

In addition, the continual pain, as well as anxiety, he experienced for many years probably induced the stripped-down, honest version of the songs included in his double album release—songs that looked ahead to his daughters’ futures, songs that praised the strength of the woman he loved, and songs that spoke to his foundation in faith.

From the time of its release in October 2021, Human: The Double Album, has been worthy of praise, but as the details behind its creation continue to unfold our appreciation for Cody Johnson and his sound grow exponentially.

You can see Cody Johnson share his recovery story here:

And you can give “Human” another listen here:

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock