Tuesday, February 25, 2014

#94 MY FATHER'S EYES by Amy Grant (1979)

Myrrh Records (MSB-6625)
Amy Grant.

That name means different things to different people. For many, she’s the fresh-faced teenager that introduced them to Christian music in the 70s. To others, she’s the queen of ‘80s CCM, prancing back and forth, barefoot in that leopard print jacket on the Grammy Awards telecast, giving new legitimacy to Christian rock. To some, she’s been a lightning rod for controversy, from comments about nude sunbathing in Rolling Stone magazine to an all-too-quick marriage following her divorce from Gary Chapman. Still others see her as a woman who was born to sing Christmas music (she has released three – count ‘em – three amazing holiday albums). At the end of the day, objective observers agree that she has built a long, successful career on music that matters.

Ever since she burst on the scene as a bashful teenager, bringing contemporary Christian music to the forefront of American culture, the Nashville native gained a reputation for creating potent songs that examined life’s complexities with an open heart and keen eye. She went on to become a crossover sensation, her musical gifts transcending genre boundaries to make her a household name.

The numbers are simply staggering:

Over 30 million albums sold worldwide

1 Quintuple Platinum album

1 Triple Platinum

1 Double Platinum album

4 Platinum albums

6 Gold albums

6 Grammy Awards

26 Dove Awards

6 #1 radio singles

She was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2003, and in 2006 she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Born November 25, 1960, in Augusta, GA, where her father, Dr. Burton Paine Grant, was doing his residency, Amy Lee Grant was a descendant of one of the most prominent and prosperous families of Nashville, TN. Her great-grandfather, Andrew Mizell Burton, was a wealthy insurance executive and philanthropist. She was the fourth and final daughter born to her father and her mother, Gloria Grant, following her sisters Mimi, Kathy, and Carol. In addition to being well established socially and financially, the Grant family was also deeply religious. Although she was baptized in the Church of Christ, she soon followed her sister Mimi in attending a breakaway variant of the faith, the Belmont Church of Christ, which took a less formal approach, more in keeping with the Charismatic Movement.

While in the seventh grade at the private Ensworth Grammar School, Amy learned to play the guitar. Later, at the private girls’ prep school Harpeth Hall, Grant began performing with her guitar at devotional meetings at the school, playing songs by such favorites as James Taylor, Carole King, and John Denver. None of them, however, sang Christian songs, so Grant augmented her program with her own faith-based compositions. While working as an intern at a recording studio, she made a tape of her songs for her parents that was heard by producer Brown Bannister, who in turn played it for singer Chris Christian, recently retained by gospel label Word Records as a talent scout. He played it over the phone for label executives, and she was offered a recording contract five weeks before her 16th birthday.

She recorded her first album, simply titled Amy Grant in 1977. It initially sold 250,000 copies, eventually selling over a million copies.

In the fall of 1978, she performed her first ticketed concert—in Fort Worth, Texas—after beginning her first year at Furman University. Grant attended Furman in 1979 and 1980. There she performed one of her earliest paid, professional concerts, opening for Gene Cotton at McAlister Auditorium on the Furman campus. I mention this only because I live 5 miles from the Furman campus and actually saw my first Amy Grant concert in that same McAlister Auditorium several years later (the Age to Age Tour as I recall). She had Kathy Troccoli and some piano player opening for her that night – some guy named Michael W. Smith. I remember the show well because Smith had laryngitis and was unable to sing that night, which was a big disappointment. But I digress.

My Father’s Eyes, Amy Grant’s second album, was released in April of 1979 and demonstrated that the 18-year old singer/college student had grown up a lot in just 2 years. Grant, who wrote or co-wrote eight of the 13 songs, came across as a girl who had seen much more of the world.

The ballad My Father’s Eyes had been written by a young Texan by the name of Gary Chapman, an aspiring Christian songwriter, and it carried a subtle Christian message rather than the sort of overt statement typical of most Gospel music at that time. The message was positive, and it alluded to elements of Christian belief, but it also could be interpreted as a song from a girl to her earthly father. It turned out to be a big radio hit. Another successful radio single was Faith Walking People, with its Chicago-style horn parts. Always the Winner pulled the curtain back to reveal a vulnerable side of Amy, a quality that her legion of admirers would fully embrace in coming years.

Always the winner, baby
You're always the center, baby
But don't ever get lonely at night
When the crowds have gone away?

There was a time when you cared for their hearts
And the need to show them love was tearing you apart
But you're changing, you know
Become the star of the show
Now you've got nothing to give
Where is the truth you once lived?
You're just lonely / Don't you feel lonely?
Turn out the spotlight, I'm tired.
Not my will, but Thine Lord, I'm crying
Oh, won't you turn my gaze back, Lord, to you?
You're the only One who knows me
Please mold me back to You


Always the Winner was also notable for another reason: the instrumentation included synthesized drums (known as “Syndrums” back in the day). Yeah, baby!

The song Bridegroom was written by Marty McCall who would later form the band Fireworks. For some reason, the song featured “fife & drum” accompaniment.

You Were There (written by Stephanie Boosahda) is given a disco treatment, while Amy’s sisters join her for an a cappella rendition of the classic hymn O Sacred Head. [The latter may have been a nod to the church music of her youth. Amy’s family belonged to the Church of Christ denomination, which banned the playing of musical instruments at its services; worshipers sang the hymns a cappella.]

Amy, who was attending college during the week and playing concerts on the weekends, also confessed to spiritual and physical exhaustion in All That I Need Is You:

Lord, you know it's been a busy day / And I'm just weary to my bones
I hope you'll understand if I don't pray / But I need my rest to carry on

Why do I kid myself? You see my heart / The me I try so to ignore
And Lord, You see how very weak I am / I just can't hide it anymore
Fairytale offers an interesting take on Good vs. Evil/Jesus vs. Satan. The message is reminiscent of Prince Song by the 2ndChapter of Acts. It’s one of my favorite Amy songs from any of her albums.

I was just like Peter Pan in Never-Never Land
Afraid of what the future might be
Afraid to face the things I couldn't understand
Afraid of things that I couldn't see

Fairytale / It seems just like a fairytale
But there's something in my heart that says this time the story's real
Fairytale / Extraordinary tale
Of a King who offers love so far beyond what I can fee.

There's a world out there that human eyes can never see
But it's just within the reach of the heart
Two princes wage the battle for eternity
But the Victor has been known from the start

Now I can see / The truth can seem so much like a fantasy
But make-believe was never as real to me / I know this time the story's true

Just like Sleeping Beauty in a Neverland / I was dying under a spell
But then a Prince who comes from a Foreverland / Awakened me from my fairytale


From there, the rest of the album gets a little weird. Giggle is about standing up for the Lord (even in the face of being taught evolution in school), which is great…but the musical treatment makes it sound like a children’s song from some PBS kids’ show. Then Brown Bannister takes a prominent vocal role on a duet with Amy called There Will Never Be Another. It comes across like a straight love song; but a closer listen reveals that it’s a song to God, not an earthly lover. The album ends with something that just seems like filler material – an a cappella sing-along called Keep It On Going.

On My Father’s Eyes, Amy Grant and her producer Brown Bannister continued a trend begun by Chris Christian (on his own self-titled debut in 1977 and B.J. Thomas’ Home Where I Belong: to record songs that could be interpreted as either Christian or secular. [This was later referred to as the “God as my girlfriend” syndrome.] Grant and Bannister were forging a new style of Christian pop music here and succeeded wildly.

My Father’s Eyes would eventually be certified a gold record. It also earned Amy her first Grammy nomination.

In May 1979, while at the My Father’s Eyes album release party, Amy Grant met Gary Chapman, writer of the title track (and future husband). Grant & Chapman toured together the summer of 1979. She subsequently left Furman University and returned to Nashville to be closer to the record industry…and to Chapman. Gary and Amy were married on June 19, 1982. Their marriage produced three children.

Sadly, the marriage did not last. Gary Chapman has said that he believes a relationship between Amy and country artist Vince Gill was the primary cause of the divorce. About the breakup, Chapman had this to say to Today’s Christian Music in 2001: “It was not God’s will that we divorced. It wasn’t. That was not His plan. Can He take what has happened and through His miracle of grace do great things for me and for her and for everybody else involved? Yes. And He is. But that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t. It will never make it right. ‘Irreconcilable differences’ is such a lame and hollow phrase. From my vantage point, we had one irreconcilable difference. I wanted her to stay, and she wanted to leave. Everything else, God could have reconciled."

Divorce has become so common among CCM artists – sometimes multiple divorces. Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Steve Archer, Kenny Marks, John Michael Talbot, Bob Bennett, Paul Clark, Pam Mark Hall, Gene Eugene, Derri Daugherty, Mike Roe, Wayne Watson, Greg X. Volz, and on and on we could go. In the interest of full disclosure, I went through one myself in the early 90s. Thank God for Bob Bennett’s Songs From Bright Avenue. That record pretty much kept me sane during a heartbreaking chapter in my life. But the Chapman-Grant split is the most infamous of them all. The timing of it all was troubling, and the differing accounts given in magazine interviews did little to clear things up. Not that any of us are owed an explanation. On the other hand, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48)

A few years after My Father’s Eyes, Amy Grant released a record called Age to Age and never looked back. In the‘80s she would become the undisputed Queen of Christian Pop. She charted new territory. And she sold a heck of a lot of records. She ended up being an ambassador for Christ to more non-Christians than any other Christian artist has ever had the chance to sing to. And that’s a good thing.

Fun Fact: Marty McCall (Fireworks), Steve Chapman(Dogwood) and Lenny LeBlanc all sang background vocals on this album.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

#95 MARANATHA MARATHON by Honeytree (1979)


Myrrh Records (MSB 6629)
There was only one “First Lady of Jesus Music.” We called her Honeytree.

Nancy Henigbaum was born April 11, 1952, in Davenport, Iowa. "Honeytree" is the English translation of her family's German name. She was born into a family of professional classical musicians. Raised with classical and folk music, Nancy learned to play the guitar as a child. She was a quiet, thoughtful young person who battled with a sense of rejection from the “normal” kids at school. She was drawn to the “hippie” kids and became involved in drug abuse during her years at University of Iowa High School. It was among these friends that she was first called Honeytree. In 1970 she met some “Jesus people” at her sister's art school and became one herself. After graduating, she worked at a youth ministry in Ft. Wayne, Indiana called the Adams Apple, a Jesus movement era coffee house, and it was during these years that she began to write songs about her new-found faith. In 1973 a friend financed the recording of a custom album which was soon picked up and distributed by Word. The rest, as they say, is history. 
She quickly became the most beloved female singer of the Jesus movement, and certainly one of its best songwriters. She toured with Phil Keaggy and comedian Mike Warnke for a time. Her songs were intricate and at times, playful. Her folk rock-soprano style was influenced by secular artists such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Judy Collins, but her lyrics were largely dealing with one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and with various human relationships from a Christian worldview. Many young Christians grew up with Honeytree’s music and identified deeply with her uniquely vulnerable lyrics. Said Nancy in a recent interview: “The Lord has been training me that there is a power in vulnerability; there’s a power in simplicity. And that’s the role that I’m supposed to play. Other people have different jobs. But I’m supposed to be simple and let the Holy Spirit flow.”

So…let’s take a look back at her 1979 offering, Maranatha Marathon -- perhaps the most interesting album cover for any of her records! Honeytree is jogging down a paved street in a warm-up suit, joined by about ten ‘extras.’ I have no idea who all of those folks are. On the back cover, the jog is over, and they’re all just standing around, talking. But now they're in their normal attire. The cheerleader is cute...and serves as a reminder of how much cheerleader uniforms have changed over the years!

Peter York, Richard Souther & Herb Melton from a band called david played on the album; it was engineered by Grammy award winner Jack Joseph Puig. The record itself is quite eclectic. There’s a little something for everybody – straight-ahead rock, full-on country, contemplative worship, and even a children’s ditty. It almost seemed that Honeytree was feeling a little pressure to be a little more commercial with her music. The end result was a thoroughly enjoyable album (albeit somewhat schizophrenic!). The title track marries a country musical treatment to a timeless lyric for those of us who are in it for the long haul. The same year that DeGarmo & Key recorded Long Distance Runner, and a short time before Dallas Holm released Running the Race, Nancy Honeytree offered these words of encouragement:

You can tell the Christian runner by the straight and narrow track
That he follows without swerving left or right or looking back
There’s a finish line in Heaven that his heart is fixed upon
The common goal of all the runners / Maranatha marathon!

The song then takes an unexpected turn with a slower, somewhat dark bridge that repeats…

The old man is dead / Long live the new creature
The old man is dead / Long live the new creature

Before popping back into the bouncy country chorus…

When he runs he never wearies / when he walks he never faints
He is striving for the Master / and cheered on by the saints
Earthly runners may be healthy / but a better race is on
Won’t you come and join the runners / Maranatha marathon!

Al Perkins contributed steel guitar to The Pilgrim, another country tune. [Nancy’s amazing 1993 song Pioneer could’ve been titled The Pilgrim Part II.] Next came Live For Jesus, a song that Nancy wrote specifically for Evie Tornquist. This was probably the song from the album that most folks remember most.

Live for Jesus / That’s what matters
And when other houses crumble mine is strong
Live for Jesus / That’s what matters
That you see the light in me and come along

The kids from Maranatha Christian Academy of Calvary Chapel lend their voices to That’s When We Learn to Fly, a song that could’ve just as easily been performed on Uncle Stonehill’s Hat

Father Lift Me Up and Psalm 57 were basically worship songs (long before worship was cool), the latter with beautiful, full-blown classical orchestration. 

Righteous Rock and Roll was just that – and the most exciting track on the album, if you ask me. We had never heard Honeytree perform a song like that! Maybe she was feeling a little pressure to be more like all the other rockers, instead of just “dancing with the one who brung ya.”  Regardless, it’s a great song and I’m glad she did it. 

Go to Church is a nod to 50’s rock and roll. Again, very different from anything she’d done before…but the resulting song was another highlight of the album! Nancy’s humor was on display in the lyrics from Go to Church:

Go to church like your Mama said / Go to church, it’ll help your head
You know, Jesus  would be glad to see you, glad to see you in church
Remember life is a disaster / when you rebel against your Pastor

Are your hassles getting hairy? / Take them to the sanctuary / Go to church

Two other songs are reminiscent of Honeytree’s early acoustic work – Bethel and Do You Love Me. Bethel reminds us that Honeytree has often demonstrated her knowledge of and love for the Word in her song lyrics. And Do You Love Me is an instant classic…a haunting conversation with the Lord Jesus Himself:

Do you love Me? / Can you take My hand and walk alone?
My path is narrow, tracked with tears / You’ll sacrifice for many years
Do you love Me enough?
Do you love Me? / Can you give me all you have to give?
Your eyes, your hands, each word you say / and every thought you think each day

Do you love Me enough?

'90s Honeytree!

On October 30, 1983, Honeytree was formally ordained by her church, Calvary Temple in Ft. Wayne, IN. During the 1980s she developed a ministry to single adults. God also opened the door for her to be involved with Prison Fellowship ministry. She sang in many prisons in preparation for the late Chuck Colson to speak to the inmates.

In June 1990, at age 38, Honeytree got married! She became Mrs. John Richard Miller. Her husband is also an ordained minister. J.R. and Nancy experienced God’s faithfulness through times of loss in 1995 when their baby boy died only two and a half hours after birth. Two weeks before the birth, Nancy’s doctor told her about one of his patients who needed to place a child for adoption. Three months later, when little William came into the world, the adoption had already been arranged. Since Nancy had planned to nurse her child, she was even able to breastfeed the adopted baby when he was only 45 minutes old. “He’s been our own son since the first day,” J.R. and Nancy rejoice. This experience resulted in a powerful song called Up To Something Good.

Nancy Honeytree today

In the 1990s Honeytree recorded several Spanish-language albums. She is still active in ministry, especially world missions. Recently she has ministered in Pakistan and India, and will soon perform in Italy. She is also is committed to outreach in Latin America. Nancy says: “I think that everything that is happening in the world shows us that Jesus is getting things in place for His great harvest. There are so many people getting saved all over the world. It’s amazing. And I’m just happy to be a part of it through singing in different languages.”


Many of the "2nd and 3rd wave" CCM artists have gone to great lengths to state that they are not preachers or ministers and that no one should have that expectation of them. Nancy Honeytree doesn’t feel that way at all. She put it this way in a 2012 interview: “When I’m singing for the Lord, I’m preaching the Gospel. And the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.”

Fun Fact: Bob Bennett and Michele Pillar sang background vocals on Maranatha Marathon.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

#96 HOME WHERE I BELONG by B.J. Thomas (1977)

Myrrh Records (MSB-6574)

B. J. Thomas has been described as a true American institution in pop, country, and Christian music. If you’re someone who looks down your nose at Mr. Thomas as one of those artists who can only play state fairs and rodeos, consider the following: He’s a five-time Grammy and two time Dove Award winner who has sold more than 70 million records and is ranked in Billboard’s Top 50 most played artists over the past 50 years. That’s impressive.

Billy Joe "B. J." Thomas was born August 7, 1942, in Hugo, Oklahoma. He sang in a church choir as a teenager but dealt with dysfunction and abuse at home due to an alcoholic father. Music became an escape in high school, a move that turned out quite profitable for the young Mr. Thomas. Over the next decade or so, songs like I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hooked on a Feeling, Eyes of a New York Woman, Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head, I Just Can’t Help Believin’, (Hey, Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, and Mighty Clouds of Joy rode high on the charts and made B.J. a wealthy man. 

The combination of financial success and an inner emptiness resulted in a crippling drug addiction; his cocaine alone cost $3,000 a week. He was separated from his wife Gloria (whom he had married when he was twenty-six and she was seventeen) and daughter Paige. During this time, he reportedly could barely get through a recording session because of his incoherence. He developed a reputation as being extremely hard to work with and creating havoc in recording studios.

''In 1975 I began to realize that I was either going to die or I was going to make a decision to put the drugs down,'' B. J. recalls. ''I couldn't put them down, so I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to eventually kill myself.”

Gloria called one day to tell B.J. that she had become a born-again Christian. He was not impressed. But after a near overdose in Hawaii, he agreed to come home and talk to her about it. On January 28, 1976, Jim Reeves prayed with B.J. Thomas as he surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He recalls: “It was the first truly sincere thing I’d ever done. I told God, ‘Lord, I am undone. I can’t handle it. I just want to turn it over to you. I want to accept your Son as my Savior.’ Man, I started dancing all over this guy’s house! I couldn’t stop laughing, and he couldn’t stop crying. It was a miraculous thing.” He was instantaneously healed of his drug habit that very night. 

Gloria and B.J. Thomas

''It was such a miraculous thing for me,'' he later recalled. ''When I received the Lord as my Savior, I just knew I was gonna go through some withdrawals. I knew I was gonna lose my mind. But I never had one shaky moment, one sleepless night. Nothing bad ever happened.''

It didn’t take long for news of Thomas’ conversion to reach executives at Word Records; the Waco, Texas-based company offered him a contract to record Contemporary Christian Music. So Thomas signed 2 contracts; he would simultaneously record Christian albums for Myrrh Records and secular pop for MCA. Which worked out great initially. The pop album yielded a #17 hit in Don’t Worry Baby…and the Christian album – Home Where I Belong – would prove to be the biggest selling album of his illustrious career. Nobody saw that coming.

B.J. Thomas had been a medium-sized fish in a huge secular ocean, but he was a whale in the small Christian pond back in 1977. Thomas was a huge “get” for the fledgling Christian music industry. In later years, many artists – some well known, some not so well known – would start making Christian albums following salvation experiences. Rick Cua (Outlaws), Dan Peek (America), Leon Patillo (Santana), Joe English (Paul McCartney & Wings) and Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) were just a few. Of course, Bob Dylan belonged in a category all his own. But Myrrh was more than happy to trumpet the news that a real live “star” was making Christian music in 1977. They were rewarded with some big, fat sales figures.

Gloria and B.J. Thomas

Let’s talk about the album itself. Chris Christian’s fingerprints were all over this one. He produced it, arranged it, played guitar, keyboards, and percussion, sang background vocals, and even wrote half of the songs! The album is basic, 70s male pop star stuff. Many of these songs, from a stylistic standpoint, could've been recorded by the likes of Mac Davis, Glen Campbell, or Tom Jones. Thomas' vocal style was somewhat unique and pretty readily recognizable. He doesn't blow you away with his range or his power...but he's really good at singing like B.J. Thomas (if that makes sense). Several songs were written by or co-written with Archie Jordan. Christian and Jordan were masters at penning tunes that could play both sides of the fence – that is, lyrics that could either be taken as being about God or about an earthly lover. “God as my girlfriend” songs, as they were often called. This record had several of them (Without a Doubt, You Were There to Catch Me, Down Isn’t So Bad, Storybook Realities, and Common Ground). One author describes this genre as “ambiguous love songs that can be appreciated by diverse audiences for completely different reasons.”

The title track to Home Where I Belong was written by the talented songsmith Pat Terry. It’s a song that focuses on a yearning for Heaven, for the promised life that waits beyond the troubles of this world, and it was a huge hit. The Pat Terry Group has also recorded the song (as have many other artists), but B.J.’s is the definitive version.

They say that Heaven's pretty / And living here is too 
But if they said that I would have to choose between the two 
I'd go home / going home / where I belong 

Sometimes when I'm dreaming / It comes as no surprise 
That if you look and see the homesick feeling in my eyes 
I'm going home / going home / where I belong 

While I'm here I'll serve Him gladly / Sing Him all these songs 
I'm here / but not for long 

When I'm feeling lonely / When I'm feeling blue 
It's such a joy to know that I am only passing through
I'm headed home / going home / where I belong 

One day I'll be sleeping / When death knocks on my door 
And I'll awake and find that I'm not homesick anymore 
I'll be home / going home / where I belong

I Wanna Be Ready was another song that looked toward heaven and the second coming of Jesus. The record closed with what served as worship in the 70s – a song called Hallelujah, written by Chris Christian’s wife, Shannon Smith.

Home Where I Belong would prove to be the most popular of B.J. Thomas’ CCM albums. 

But trouble was looming.

Thomas developed an uneasy and at times hostile relationship with Christian fans who came to his live shows expecting to hear him perform only his Christian material. He preferred to mix Top-40 and country material into his concerts. He ended up being heckled and protested, resulting in an eventual retreat back into a full-time secular career. He gave angry, profanity-laced interviews and demonstrated a real bitterness toward Christians in general, and at one time denied that he was still a born again believer. 

Much blame has been laid at the feet of “closed-minded, intolerant, judgmental Christians” for the divorce between Thomas and the CCM industry. But perhaps part of this was due to a lack of understanding on Thomas’ part. Maybe he grew up in a world where religion was just a part of your life, something you do on Sunday. To him, it was natural for his “faith songs” to be compartmentalized...to fit nicely into the “gospel” portion of the show. Whereas, many Christians do not compartmentalize their faith. Their Christianity is not something they do on the side to make extra money, it is the very basis for what they believe and how they live their lives every day. It is who they are. Maybe that misunderstanding helped pour fuel on the fire that consumed Thomas’ CCM career in the early 80s. Just a guess on my part. 

That said, the heckling and protesting was kind of stupid. Christian audiences probably should've just swallowed hard and let him sing about raindrops and somebody-done-somebody-wrong and whatever. 

Then again, one of his biggest secular hits was Hooked On a Feeling...

Lips are sweet as candy, the taste stays on my mind
Girl, you keep me thirsty for another cup of wine
I got it bad for you girl, but I don't need a cure
I'll just stay addicted and hope I can endure
All the good love, when we're all alone
Keep it up, girl, yeah ya turn me on

Imagine Thomas singing lyrics like those alongside Home Where I Belong

Does. Not. Compute.

B.J. and Gloria Thomas in 2006

Happily, B.J. Thomas eventually made peace of sorts with the Christian music industry and released two hymns albums in 1995 and 1997. He has also released a live album in recent years that includes many of his faith-based songs. He reportedly still performs many hymns and Christian songs in his concerts. In 1997 he was quoted as saying that he is as proud of his body of Christian recordings as anything he’s ever done.

Hey, all’s well that ends well, right?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

#97 DALLAS HOLM & PRAISE...LIVE by Dallas Holm & Praise (1977)

Dallas Holm & Praise...Live
Greentree Records (R-3441)
It was held at the old Municipal Auditorium on Victory Drive in Columbus, Georgia.

My Dad had taken us to a David Wilkerson Crusade. I honestly don’t recall many details (if any) from that night. But I do remember that there was a guy with long hair and sideburns playing a guitar. His name was Dallas Holm. 

Fast forward 15 years or more to another classic concert venue – the old Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina (derisively referred to as the Big Brown Box). I was there attending a Dallas Holm concert. Again, I don’t remember any musical details from that evening…but I’ll never forget the altar call. Dallas Holm is one of those artists just old-fashioned enough to believe that it’s important to give people an opportunity to respond to the Gospel message that they’ve heard during such a concert (sarcasm intended). Before giving the opportunity for life-changing prayer and ministry, Holm asked that all of the house lights be turned on and that everyone’s eyes remain open. His reasoning was that surrendering your life to Jesus was nothing to be ashamed of, but rather something to celebrate! “And if you can’t do it here, in front of an arena full of brothers and sisters in Christ, you’ll not last too long out in the world” (or words to that effect). People did respond. And it was a very memorable and effective way to close a concert.

Musically, Dallas Holm was always a bit of an “everyman.” Despite winning Dove Awards for Vocalist of the Year, he was really a quite average singer. He’s never been known as an incredible guitarist, an endorsement deal with McPherson Guitars notwithstanding. And, despite a Songwriter of the Year Dove Award in the 70s, he isn’t typically regarded as an extraordinary songsmith (such as, for example, Bob Bennett or Randy Stonehill). But when you add up the sum of his talents, you come away with a healthy respect for an exceptional artist who has ministered in a powerful way to entire generations of people and has earned the respect of his peers.

Dallas Holm was born on November 5, 1948, in St. Paul Park, Minnesota. St. Paul Park was about a mile or so from the Mississippi River, and Holm has called it "probably as nice a place as anywhere in the country." Holm grew up hunting, fishing, canoeing and ice skating. One of his uncles used to climb into a Jeep and pull Dallas and his brother on snow skis...across a frozen lake. Dallas says he got his love of the outdoors from his mother's side of the family and his love of music from his father's side. 

Growing up in Minnesota

After striking out on on the trombone, young Dallas followed in his Dad's footsteps by learning to play the guitar. His early musical influences were Elvis Presley and The Byrds. At the age of sixteen, he was pursuing a music career in local rock bands. After being raised in a decidedly Christian home, Dallas was admittedly straddling the fence where his personal morals and commitment to Jesus was concerned. He remembers, “One night the pastor of our church sat down and talked with me about my life, my goals, and Jesus. On October 17, 1965, I committed my life and my music to the Lord. My life was radically and eternally transformed. My music became the means whereby I could express the dynamics of that transformation and share the reality of Christ with others. I’ve never looked back.”

After graduating from North Central Bible College (an Assemblies of God school that is now known as North Central University), Dallas was hired as a youth pastor by the Rosen Heights Assembly of God Church in Fort Worth, Texas. The Rosen Heights church was pastored by a famous Gospel songwriter by the name of Ira Stanphill. As the Lord would have it, Dallas Holm was in the right place at the right time to gain some valuable songwriting advice that would serve him well. 

"Keep your songs simple," Stanphill told Dallas. "Don't write complicated things that people can't understand. Be plain. That's the way Jesus did it. There's no better model." 

After that stint in Fort Worth, Dallas got a phone call from the aforementioned evangelist David Wilkerson. The popular evangelist saw something in Holm that impressed him - the way Dallas could keep the attention of young people as he played and sang his songs. The invitation was extended and accepted. Dallas Holm became the primary soloist for the David Wilkerson Crusades in 1970. Based first in New York City, then in Southern California, and finally, back in Texas, Holm traveled and ministered with Wilkerson for ten years.

During the Wilkerson era. That's David Wilkerson on the far right.
Dallas Holm is kneeling.

During the early years of his association with Wilkerson, Holm recorded solo albums on the Zondervan label. But he noticed that The Imperials and a few other more contemporary-sounding groups were recording for Impact Records, an imprint of the Benson Company. After a while, Holm summoned up the courage to call the Impact offices and ask for an audience with the head man himself, Bob MacKenzie. Long story short, MacKenzie welcomed Dallas to Impact Records and thus began a long and fruitful relationship between Holm and Benson. Now The Imperials were his label-mates...and they even recorded a song penned by Dallas - Jesus Got A Hold Of My Life.  

At the urging of Wilkerson, Holm formed a group in 1976. He called it Dallas Holm and Praise, and they toured together for eleven years. Holm's first choice for the group was Phil Johnson. "I had come to love Phil like a brother," Holm wrote in his autobiography, titled This Is My Story. "We think alike, we work alike - kinda easy-going and laid back. Above all, I had complete confidence in his Christian commitment. And as a bonus, he liked to fish as much as I did!"

But Johnson was a much-sought-after producer at the time and did not relish the thought of going on the road full-time. He turned his friend Dallas down. But he suggested that Holm consider his brother and sister-in-law, Tim and LaDonna Johnson (LaDonna was also a sister to secular music's Gatlin Brothers). With Tim and LaDonna on board, bassist Randy Adams and drummer Rick Norris rounded out the group. Adams was later replaced by bassist Rick Crawford. They became the first Contemporary Christian band to receive an RIAA certified Gold Album for Dallas Holm and Praise...LIVE.  

Dallas Holm and Praise...LIVE really was a live album. Holm told CCM Magazine: "We didn't know anything; we did everything wrong you could possibly do. First of all, we decided to record it live, and nobody was buying live albums! We spent a whopping $4,500 producing the whole thing, using semi-professional equipment with these cheesy eight-track channel boards set up in a camping trailer. We recorded it at Lindale High School in a 300-seat auditorium. It was truly live with no fixes. We just blew through it and sang our songs; the whole thing took 45 minutes."

Holm's record company optimistically shipped out 100,000 copies to Christian retail outlets only to find few were interested and there was an alarming amount of returns. However, once Christian radio discovered one particular song and began spinning it nationwide, suddenly the retailers were demanding that the records be returned to them. That song is now an Easter classic: Rise Again. It was the album’s centerpiece and would go on to be one of the biggest Christian radio hits in history.

Holm recalled in CCM Magazine that he wrote this song about Christ's resurrection during a time when he was struggling for ideas. "Finally out of frustration I began to pray, 'Well, Lord, if you were transported to this time and this place, what would You say?' And as hokey as it may sound, I got this mental image of Jesus with the beard and the rope and the whole thing just standing on stage with a guitar. I didn't hear any voices from heaven, no thunderclaps or lightning flashes, but I began to write, and it was literally like taking dictation. In 10 minutes tops, the music and words came out and it was done."

Go ahead, drive the nails in my hands  laugh at me where you stand
Go ahead and say it isn't Me / the day will come when you will see

'Cause I'll rise again / Ain't no power on earth can tie Me down
Yes, I'll rise again / Death can't keep Me in the ground

Go ahead, mock My name / My love for you is still the same
Go ahead and bury Me / But very soon I will be free

Go ahead, and say I'm dead and gone / But you will see that you were wrong
Go ahead, try to hide the Son / But all will see that I'm the One

'Cause I'll come again / Ain't no pow'r on earth can keep me back
Yes I'll come again / Come to take My people back

Rise Again won the 1977 Dove Award for Song of the Year and is an Easter staple to this day in churches around the globe. "I'd never written a song like that before," said Holm. "They just don't come that fast. I have a drawer full of uncompleted ones to attest to that fact. I realized that I didn't write the song. The Lord wrote it. I just delivered the message."  

There were other notable songs on LIVE: He Knew Me Then, He Means All to Me, Hey! I’m a Believer, the altar call classic Come Unto Jesus and even a cover of Love Song’s Front Seat Back Seat. But Rise Again will always be the song that sets this record apart.

Dallas Holm & Praise - Live rose to the top of airplay and sales charts. Rise Again was released as a single and stayed at the top of every Gospel chart in the industry, month after month after month. The song has been covered by too many artists to mention here. 

Holm’s appeal is broad. He is regarded as a Jesus Music pioneer, but he is also listed as a significant influence by mainstream CCM artists like Steven Curtis Chapman and Twila Paris. Heck, he can even be seen on several Bill Gaither Homecoming videos. Dallas has earned his influence after more than 40 years of writing, singing and ministering in some 4,000 concerts in every state in the USA as well as many countries abroad. His 38 recordings have garnered gold records, multiple Dove Awards, Grammy nominations, number one songs, and countless accolades, including a 2007 induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. 

By Dallas Holm

Let my light shine in the night time
Let it shine all day through,
Let it shine - shine for Jesus,
May it shine, shine on you.

I was walking along in the darkness,
I didn't know which way to go,
Then the Lord, He turned the light on,
Changed my life, saved my soul.

So my light shine in the night time
Let it shine all day through,
Let it shine - shine for Jesus,
May it shine, shine on you.

Now I live for just one purpose,
Let the Lord shine through me,
'Cause if His love can shine on others,
Then His Spirit will set 'em free.

Just let my light shine in the night time
Let it shine all day through,
Let it shine - shine for Jesus,
May it shine, shine on you.

By Dallas Holm

Come unto Jesus, give Him your heart today;
Come unto Jesus, let Him have His way!

Oh, I know there are things in your life
You think He can't forgive;
But He'll forgive and forget, my friend,
And show you how to live.

Come unto Jesus, give Him your heart today;
Come unto Jesus, let Him have His way!

Don't you put it off my friend;
You can't afford to wait;
Today's the day for you,
Soon it could be too late!

Come unto Jesus, give Him your heart today;
Come unto Jesus, let Him have His way!

Come unto Jesus, give Him your heart today;
Come unto Jesus, let Him have His way!


Dallas says, "One of the great blessings of being around this long is that now I hear nightly of how God has used this ministry to change lives through the years. People come up and share how they were saved in a concert many years ago. I receive letters from parents telling me their kids came to know Christ at a concert and I also receive letters from kids who say their parents received Christ at a concert. We know of many in ministry both here and abroad who say that it was at a Dallas Holm concert where they felt the call to ministry. These testimonies and many more are the great highlight and reward of our ministry."

Dallas married his wife, Linda, in 1969. Unlike so many other Christian music artists, the Holms remain married today. Dallas, never one to soft-peddle or beat around the bush, has this to say regarding marriage and family: "If I reached the whole world but lost my own family, I'd consider myself a failure. If I'm not the husband and father I need to be in my own home, I have no right to proclaim truths of the Kingdom to others."

The Holms make their home in Texas today. Dallas says, "Like the bumper sticker I see on many a Texas vehicle, I wasn't born here but I got here as fast as I could.” Dallas’ passion for the outdoors -- hunting, fishing and camping -- leads him to laugh that maybe he was born a few hundred years too late, saying that his fantasy life would be as a frontiersman. [Which isn’t really too far off the mark, when you think about it. After all, he did break boundaries and traversed new ‘frontiers’ in the 70s by becoming the first non-Southern Gospel artist to win Dove Awards.]

Dallas Holm has always shared Steve Camp’s gift for honesty and blunt assessment. When asked in 2008 what he sees as the greatest need in the Church today, he said, “If there’s a terrific need in the body of Christ in America today, it’s a need to return to true, pure, passionate, intimate relationship with Jesus. We’re real good at having church. We know how to initiate the programs, build the buildings, and hire the staff, but we don’t preach the Word anymore. Religion has degenerated into this motivational psychology-warm-fuzzy-feel-good, and we do a terrible disservice to the body of Christ because life’s tough. Jesus said, ‘In this world, you will have tribulation.’ ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous,’ the Bible says. Many! And we’re telling people, ‘You all ought to be rich and you all ought to feel good.’ We need to get back to real grassroots Christianity. I've had struggles, heartaches, and disappointments just like everyone else. My wife Linda has fought an ongoing 24-year battle surviving cancer. But Christ remains preeminent in all things. No matter what has happened, what I'm going through now or what I may endure tomorrow, nothing can separate me from the love of Christ."

Dallas Holm today

Like Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy, Dallas Holm is another early Jesus Music artist who has never stopped touring or recording. In a 2008 interview, Holm was asked to reflect back on the Christian music of the 1970s. He said, “There’s a tremendous emotional and spiritual attachment to the music of that time, of that era. Music back then was not just entertainment; it wasn’t because of a record deal. There was no reason to do it except, as Paul said, we were compelled – we were constrained by the love of Christ – to share the gospel of Jesus.”

As for how he would like to be remembered? "When I stand before the Lord, it won't be for how many records I've sold or how many people saw me in concert," says Dallas. "What we do for Him is never as important as who we are in Him. That's all He's measuring."

Fun Facts: 

• Dallas Holm is a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA), the second-largest motorcycling group in the U.S. with over 50,000 members. "My older brother introduced me to bikes when I was about 14, and I've loved them ever since. CMA has a huge prison ministry where we take our bikes into the prisons and talk to the inmates about them. It opens up the door to talk about Christ to someone who probably wouldn't have listened to you otherwise."

Dallas Holm personally prayed with Eddie DeGarmo to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord. You can read all the details in DeGarmo's 2018 book, Rebel For God.

Dallas Holm eventually got to be in a group with his friend Phil Johnson. They recorded two albums together in the 1980s, along with Tim Sheppard, as part of the trio Holm Sheppard & Johnson.