This past week, the Christian music industry and fans have been grieving the loss of Christian music icon and Gospel Music Hall of Famer Carman Licciardello. Carman died on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 due to complications from surgery at age 65.
Carman Dominic Licciardello, known by his fans simply as Carman, was a renowned Christian singer and evangelist. His concerts were often free in an attempt to reach more people with the gospel of Christ. He constantly filled large stadiums and currently holds a record in Dallas, TX for the largest attended Christian concert. He sold more seats than some well-known secular names such as Pink Floyd, Madonna, and Garth Brooks. His music covers many genres including pop, rap, Broadway, and others. Using these different genres, Carman loved to tell stories with his songs. His website calls his music “story songs.”
Carman was born on January 19, 1956. He began his musical career with the drums by age five, the guitar by fifteen, and began singing at sixteen. As his love for performing increased, Carman traveled the states playing the club circuit. He didn’t become a Christian until 1973 when he drove to Las Vegas and saw singer and pastor Andrae Crouch perform. Carman was so moved by Crouch that he gave his life to Jesus Christ.
He released his first album in 1980 titled “God’s Not Finished with Me.” Soon after, Carman was named “Favorite Christian Vocalist of the Year” between 1987 and 1989 by Charisma Magazine Readers. In 1990, he received the first ever “Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year” award from Billboard Magazine. As years passed, his career continued to soar. Carman has now sold over ten million records and has received fifteen gold and platinum albums. His album “Champion” stayed on the Billboard overall sales charts for a record 168 weeks. Not only did Carman write his own songs, he also enjoyed writing songs for movies including “The Prince of Egypt” and the documentary “Jesus Camp’.”
Along with performing, Carman was passionate about making a change in the world. Before his death, Carman established two important non-profit organizations: Carman Ministries and Carman World Outreach. He also collected the most signatures on a petition for keeping prayer in public schools than any other person in American history. Carman is a co-founder of Parable Christian Film Festival and also received the Humanitarian Award. Other recipients include Dr. Pat Robertson, former President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, and Reverend Billy Graham.
Carman also loved to reach people through a television broadcast he produced and starred in called Halloween 3:16. My favorite song and music video in the show is “The Courtroom,” which occurred in the third video. In the video he plays the Judge, Satan, and Jesus. It takes place in “the Courtroom of Eternity.” In the video, a man is being charged by Satan for various sins he has committed during his lifetime. As the Judge is about to condemn the man, Jesus appears “on the other side of the courtroom.” Jesus says, “almost 2000 years ago, I washed his sins away.” The Judge looks in the book that Satan has with all the accusations, but every page is blank. Next, the Judge opens up “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” Carman and the choir sing, “Is your name in that book? Is your name in that book for sure? If your name is written then raise your hands, praise the Lord.” This is just one example of his many songs, of which great videos were made to go with them.
Carman was known for telling stories with his songs and one of my favorites was “America Again” from his album “The Standard.” In this song, Carman talks about the people such as the founding fathers, and others like Noah Webster (the man who wrote the first American dictionary) who could “literally quote the Bible chapter and verse.” This is amazing to think people today often learn a few verses, but cannot quote full chapters from the Bible. He sings about how, in the 1950s, chewing gum was the biggest problem in schools, but by the 1990s rape was the new issue. Carman goes on to talk about how America needs Jesus in its country if they want any hope again. Another story song from his album “Comin’ on Strong” is “Lazarus Come Forth.” In this song, Carman sings about Lazarus meeting with people such as Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They discuss knowing Jesus and Lazarus says, “I knew him in a way y’all never did.” Carman used songs that told stories as a way to evangelize and point others to Jesus.
Carman had a massive influence on Christian fans and will into the future. The music industry will greatly miss him not only for his great voice but also for his brilliant songwriting. Most importantly, his love for Jesus shone through in each of his concerts and each song he wrote. When listening to his music, it is clear that his goal in his life was to serve the kingdom of God by telling people about Jesus through the arts.