Meet Carman

Carman Licciardello is an enigma in Christian music, often described as part evangelist, part lounge act. His concerts are more like rock 'n' roll Billy Graham crusades than Christian music events. After all the singing, dancing, clapping, and preaching, throngs of people stream down to the counseling area to accept Christ or reaffirm their commitment to him. Admission is usually free -- love offerings are taken -- and he fills large arenas the world over. In fact, Carman holds the record for the largest Christian concert ever -- over 71,000 people at Dallas's Texas Stadium on October 22, 1994.

Carman has seven gold albums, two platinum videos, and four gold videos. "The Champion" stayed on the Billboard Christian chart for 168 weeks. He's come a long way since he sang "Are You Lonesome Tonight" at a New Jersey VFW in 1971. He passed through the nightclub scene in New Jersey and later moved to Las Vegas to showcase his singing talent. It was in Las Vegas that Carman became a Christian. "I wasn't a drug addict. I wasn't divorced five times or anything like that," he says. "My sister and her husband were Christians, and living in that Christian home brought me such peace. I could see what God had done in their lives, and I wanted some of it. From that point, I developed a strong relationship with God, and about five years later, I started singing Christian music."

How do stores classify and display a Carman album? Is it pop? Comedy? Drama? Rap? Rock? The answer is yes. There is no way that one can identify a Carman song by its "style." Not to fall into any particular genre has almost become his style. His music is largely derivative -- skipping from country twang to hip-hop grooves to Sly and the Family Stone and movie soundtrack drama. He writes his own material in order to keep current with popular music trends. If there is any original trademark to Carman's repertoire, it is what he calls his "story songs" -- "Sunday's on the Way, "The Champion," "Radically Saved," and others. His first thought in writing music is always the message -- God's salvation, straight-ahead evangelism -- and what's going to work with his audience so that they hear that message.

Carman's latest release, Mission 3:16, leaves no doubt as to his mission and message, "dropping behind enemy lines" and "taking God's message of salvation to the streets." (The musical score throughout is reminiscent of the 1960s "Mission: Impossible" television series.) He positions, "What I feel I've been led to do with this album is to give people a healthy dose of strength through God . . . If this album inspires them to go out to the highways and byways and actually be a part of saving someone destined for destruction, then I've fulfilled my goal . . . To me, using my talent to help build the Kingdom of God is the only thing worth waking up for."

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