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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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...Smith turned out to be one of the most popular artists in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) industry as well as finding momentary achievement as a mainstream artist.  His major achievement in mainstream music happened in 1991 as soon as "Place in this World" hit the No. 6 on Billboard Hot 100. Throughout the path of his profession, he sold over 18 million albums.  The singer-songwriter was born October 7, 1957, grew up in a small West Virginia town in Kenova to Paul and Barbara Smith, the son of an oil factory worker, caterer church secretary. At an early age, he picked up on music through his church also learning how to play the piano and singing in the children's choir. He grew into a devoted Christian at the age of ten and spent his youthful years attending Bible study as well as hanging out by making music together. After high school his group of friends decided to relocate for college and started to struggle with being alone and alienated which led him to look to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope.

In 1978, Smith relocated to Nashville, finding work as a landscaper to provide for himself and performing alongside series of local bands. 'I really started losing touch when I moved to Nashville, around April of '78. I was smokin' marijuana, drinking, doing some other drugs; just being crazy, you know. My mom and dad knew what I was doing. But they never hassled me, they just prayed for me. And I felt convicted by God. Every time I'd wake up I knew: This isn't me. But I couldn't change myself.'   Unfortunately, he stayed using until October 1979, after suffering an emotional nervous breakdown that ended in his recommitment to Christ. The following day, he tried out for a new CCM group, Higher Ground, as a keyboardist and was hired on the spot. He was given an opportunity and landed the gig and started to rehabilitate while touring with the band. In November 1979, his lead vocals on the single, "I Am" happened to be played a lot on CCM radio. It was on his first tour with Higher Ground, performing predominantly in churches, that Smith was able to stop his substance abuse. While performing with Higher Ground, he signed his first songwriting deal through Paragon/Benson Publishing Company. Although, working sixteen-hour a day, writing songs was a labor of love for him. During this moment in 1981, he happened to bump into his wife, Debbie. Quoting from his book, It's Time to be Bold: ''one afternoon while I was working in my office, Deborah Kay Davis walked by. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. When she passed by, it was all over for me. I was blown away. Totally head over heels in love. I frantically picked up the phone and called my mother in West Virginia. 'Mom, I can't believe it. You're not going to believe this, Mom. I just saw the girl I'm going to marry.' 'What's her name?' 'I don't know, Mom. I haven't met her yet. But I gotta go. I'll find out and call you back.' My poor mother! She must have thought I'd lost my mind. But I'd never been so clearheaded in my life. I left my office and went searching for this girl in the warehouse. Sherlock Holmes couldn't have done a better job of tracking her down, and eventually I found myself standing outside the ladies' restroom, waiting for her to emerge. She walked out. I introduced myself. We were engaged three and a half weeks later - and married four months after that!'

Shortly after he was asked to play the keyboard in Amy Grant's band which landed his next big break.  He started going on tour and Amy's managers, noticed a great quantity of potential in Smith, however they were not successful in finding a record label that wanted to sign them. After that unsuccessful turn out he ended up starting Reunion Records and released his first album in 1983, 'The Michael W. Smith Project'. With the help of his wife Debbie, who wrote the lyrics for his first album, the debut album was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Gospel Performance. His trademark song, Friends, debuted on this first album. Which led to Amy's opening acts and he resumed to tour with her.

In 1984, he released his next album, 'Michael W. Smith 2'. Following the next couple of years he released quite a few more albums as well as two concert videos, 'Michael W. Smith Live in Concert' and 'The Big Picture Tour'. This type of music was more focused towards a younger crowd with more of a rock-oriented style. A few of the songs were secular in nature and allowed him to break through the mainstream music arena. During 1991, Reunion Records decided to give permission to Geffen Records to hand out his albums, in hopes of building in-roads perceptive in the broadly held pop audiences. There was a little debate from some of the fans who assumed he was marketing out to the secular market. But Smith's goal was to get his message out to a broader audience along with helping the youth who he saw struggling in the midst of difficulties. All through the 1990's additional albums were released to another concert video, Change Your World Live, music video records, as well as the release of some books. He also received an honorary Doctorate of Music degree from Alderson-Broaddus College in 1992.  

Michael started Rocketown in 1994, an organization formed for youths, inside a granary in Brentwood, Tennessee. This organization offered a place for the youth to get together in a secure, positive, and uplifting environment. Unfortunately the organization close down after a few years. But the new Rocketown organization, a refurbished warehouse in downtown Nashville, launched early on 2003. Along with Reunion Records manager Don Donahue, created Rocketown Records in 1996. Their earliest artist was Chris Rice and throughout the years their artist record has included many other artists. In 1999, Michael was asked to sing at the Columbine Memorial ceremony in Littleton, Colorado. His album 'This Is Your Time', which is based on the story of Cassie Bernall was inspired by the Columbine High School shootings. In his own words: 'I went to Littleton (Colorado) to sing Friends at the Columbine Memorial Service and it was a day that impacted me greatly. It was so over-whelming emotionally, that I just had to find a way to cope with it and to digest it all, so I found myself at the keyboard writing music. Meeting Cassie Bernall's family inspired me the most. Cassie claimed she believed in God and lost her life for it. I have written a song called This Is Your Time which is a challenge for us all to recognize through Cassie's life, that now is our time to stand up and live life unabashedly for God.'

Michael and his wife Debbie were also involved in starting The New River Fellowship Church 1999. His Pastor was more than willing to help out by providing the brand new church's in the right direction. He then released his Freedom album in 2000 which is an instrumental album that was recorded in Ireland alongside the Irish Film Orchestra, consisting of classic piano arrangements. During the following year in 2001, he got on the worship wave and produced the Worship album, an extremely popular and well-received work. The following year a follow-up album, released Worship Again, and Worship. He also produced for the motion picture Joshua as well as launched his updated website 'Friends Online' in 2002. Smith has expanded his realm of accomplishments by spreading The Gospels Come to Life, which is an auditory book highlighting the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in 2003. During the course of his 20 plus year of his calling, he has had many opportunities for example, singing for Presidents, national leaders, public crowds and ceremonials, as well as the Billy Graham Crusades, and performing nationwide on television furthermore his job happens to not end just yet. Lastly, in 2014 they pay tribute to Smith along with Amy Grant, for the "cornerstone of Christian music" by American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for his substantial inspiration on the category. Smith has also played the role of Cliff McArdle starring in the film version of the best-selling book "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper in 2015. In early fall 2015 the film is scheduled for release.  Whether partaking in the gospel on unknown soil or guiding artists that look for his advice on balancing family and music, he's always developed the desire for serving God and others. It is a passion that endures to burn vibrantly with no flow of disappearing gradually away. 'I don't see retirement anywhere in the Bible,' he replies with a smirk. 'It's a calling. I love to write. I love to play. It's still the most beautiful place.'

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