A gospel music composer discusses his childhood, ambition to become a gospel singer, frustrating years as a school teacher, and pursuit of his dream, which led to a Grammy-winning career and a fuller realization of his faith.
In this enthusiastic narrative, Gaither (ASCAP Christian Songwriter of the Century) tells the story of his life, from his beginnings as a boy obsessed with gospel music to his current success in the Christian music industry. Gaither and his wife, Gloria, have written, published, performed and recorded hundreds of songs together, and here, he relates how their innate gift for turning any idea into a song made them prolific writers, and how their music won them the respect of the record industry and audiences everywhere. Gaither acknowledges his accomplishments while remaining realistic about fame and its fickleness.""I believe that I'm being honest with myself when I say that I have never gotten caught up in my own success, enamored with it, or fooled into thinking that I am somebody special because of it,"" he declares. While making music is one of his greatest loves (he's a self-proclaimed""non-recovering workaholic""), Gaither is also a dedicated family man; he paints a loving portrait of his family as genuine, devoted and dedicated servants of God. But he is also quite candid about the difficult times he and his loved ones have gone through, admitting to harboring doubt and having struggled to learn to trust God in the face of hopeless situations (like his brother's death from cancer). Gaither can switch abruptly back and forth between different decades, and this switching can occasionally make his story disjointed and needlessly repetitious. However, this is a small flaw in a warm and enjoyable autobiography, which also provides an educational overview of the intricacies of the music business.
The résumé of Bill Gaither is not a quick read. There was the founding of his first group, the Bill Gaither Trio, in 1956, while Bill was a college student. There was his first job as a high school English teacher in 1959. There was marriage to teaching colleague, and eventually his songwriting partner, Gloria Sickal, in 1962. And there were the years of juggling teaching,writing, singing, recording and publishing, before the music demanded the couple’s full-time attention in 1967.
Then begins the longest page of the résumé: the publishing of more than 600 songs including hymnal standards such as “Because He Lives,” “The King Is Coming,” “Something Beautiful,” “He Touched Me,” “It Is Finished,” “There’s Something About That Name” and “Let’s Just Praise The Lord”; recording of more than 40 albums; winning of five Grammy Awards and more than a dozen Grammy nominations plus more than two dozen Dove Awards and nominations and numerous other industry awards; earning the title of Gospel Music Association’s “Songwriter of the Year” eight times; and producing the first inspirational album to achieve gold status,Alleluia: A Praise Gathering for Believers. In end-of-the-millennium honors, Bill and Gloria received the surprise of their lives when ASCAP named them Christian Songwriters of the Century for their music’s impact on American culture in the 20th century. Meanwhile, “He Touched Me” was listed by the Indianapolis Star as one of the Top 10 Songs of the Century written by a Hoosier.
And then another page: the producing of scores of videos that document the musical homecomings of the legends of southern gospel; recognition of gold, platinum or multi-platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America on 78 of the videos; the placing of a dozen videos at number 1 on Billboard magazine’s video sales charts; and a following of 75 million viewers who watch The Gaither Gospel Hour and the Gaither Family Music Hour on PAX-TV, PBS, TBN, FamilyNet, Daystar,Vision, Crossroads, GMTN and the Inspirational Network.
And yet another page: the founding of Gaither Music Company in Alexandria, Ind., which includes a record company, concert booking, television production, copyright management, retail store, recording studio and telemarketing department.Not to mention being named one of Entrepreneur magazine’s 75 top entrepreneurs in 1997.
But read between the lines of the résumé, and you’ll find an artist who’s also dedicated to the success of others. Just ask Mark Lowry, Sandi Patty, Carman, Steve Green, Don Francisco, Michael English, Jonathan Pierce and Cynthia Clawson, all of whom received career boosts while traveling with the Gaithers.Ask Homecoming artists whose careers were re-energized when Bill Gaither began videotaping the Homecoming series in 1991. (Music critics credit Bill with reviving a declining genre of music.) Ask families who attend annual events such as Praise Gathering, Jubilaté and Family Fest in the Smokies.And ask the families of southern gospel artists who receive assistance from the Gospel Music Trust Fund, a fund to which the Gaithers have given major support.
Bill Gaither says he likes to create a “win-win” situation.“I like drawing a wide circle and bringing everyone in,” he says.“And I truly enjoy helping other people win.”
Although Bill has traversed the globe for four decades singing the Gospel, he’s never really left home. He lives just miles from the farm in Alexandria, Ind.,where he grew up and dreamed of someday being a gospel music singer. The fruition of that dream, Gaither Music Company, is just a stone’s throw away from his house. And son Benjamin and daughters Amy and Suzanne, along with their families, are all just a convenient drive away when Bill and Gloria call for a Gaither get together.
Getting home and staying in touch with the extended family are priorities for Bill.He also makes time to meet regularly with a group of local men who are dedicated to an ongoing intellectual and spiritual dialogue. Books by William Bennett, C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers top his list of favorite reads.And Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Wagner top his list of listening favorites…after the GVB, of course.
The pages of history have been written by ordinary people who had something extraordinary to say with their lives. Bill Gaither is just such an individual… an Indiana-born kid with an insatiable love for music who grew to become an industry leader who would change the course of gospel music history through the songs he has written and through his influence as a mentor for other artists.
An avid fan of gospel quartets throughout his childhood, Bill founded his first group, The Bill Gaither Trio, in 1956, while he was a college student. He began teaching English in 1959 because his musical aspirations couldn’t support him full-time… yet. In 1962, Bill did one of the best things he has ever done. He married Gloria Sickal, who became the best writing partner Bill could have found anywhere. The couple spent the first five years of their married life juggling full-time teaching jobs, writing, singing, recording and publishing until music became their full-time career in 1967.
The collaborations of Bill and Gloria have resulted in more than 700 popular gospel songs, including the hymnal standard “Because He Lives,” “The King Is Coming,” “Something Beautiful,” “He Touched Me,” “It Is Finished,” “There’s Something About That Name,” “Let’s Just Praise The Lord,” and “Loving God, Loving Each Other.” Bill and Gloria have collectively won eight Grammy Awards and more than a dozen nominations, and they have received more than two dozen Dove Awards from The Gospel Music Association, earning the title of Gospel Music Association’s “Songwriter of the Year” eight times.
After decades of unprecedented musical successes, Bill and Gloria still operate their business from Bill’s hometown of Alexandria, Indiana, and they dwell in the same home in which they raised their family. They live a lifestyle focused on investing their resources into eternal things.
“Our calling is not just making music… but communicating the reality of Christ. That might mean birthing a song about Him or simply offering a cup of cold water to someone who needs it. Gloria and I have never claimed to have God figured out, but we do know that if He could use two imperfect people like us to communicate His Truth to the world, He can use everyone sitting in the audience, working on our staff or singing with us. If we have done anything right over the years, I hope we have built bridges where people could connect with God and with each other. That is what started us writing and what will keep us going for the rest of our lives.”