OFFSTAGE: Patty Loveless Wants to Breathe Life Into Your Song

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that's happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

"It even took my breath away to watch my sister suffer like that." That's what Patty Loveless just told me about how hard it was to see her older sister Dottie cope with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Especially because the year her sister died, at age 48, was the same year Loveless won the CMA female vocalist of the year award in 1996. "I was somewhere between happy and sad that year," Loveless told me. "It was so hard to think that she could've been there with me. I missed her so bad at that moment. She had amazing voice, and that inspired me, the way she moved people with her voice." But now Loveless is enthusiastic to be tapping into the power of music to get more people to learn about the disease. "Last year, I wrote a song called 'Drive' in honor of my sister. And now we're looking for amateurs to create what will be the next anthem for COPD," she said of the Tune Up 4 COPD contest that starts today (Jan. 27). There are a hundred ways into Nashville. But this path is a new one. And if I had an ounce of songwriter in me, I'd put my heart and soul into this contest. (My big sister has the disease, too.) The winner will get the chance to sing the song at this summer's CMA Music Festival in Nashville and get a trip for two to the festival. Loveless and Billy Ray Cyrus will be judging the songs with other industry big shots, and Loveless said, "I think me and Billy Ray are pretty good at picking songs. I'm always listening for something new." What she hopes the contest will accomplish is to get everyone to know the warning signs and get screened. "We want to find the missing millions. About 24 million Americans have COPD, but about half of them don't even know it." Catching it early -- before you lose lung capacity -- is critical. So any song that reminds Americans to take care of every breath will do so much good for so many. Find out more.

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