Best in Show: 12 Dove Moments to Remember
Back in 1969, when Michael W. Smith was still dreaming of playing professional baseball (he was 12), Peggy Lee was everyone’s favorite female vocalist, and the free love of Woodstock was still in full bloom, Christian music artists finally got a little public recognition, too, with the first-ever Dove Awards ceremony.
While only 11 awards were handed out that night, (nearly four times more are awarded these days), it was the beginning of a time-honored tradition of recognizing the best songwriters and vocalists that began to highlight the diversity, genre-wise, of Gospel and Christian music.
With a slew of performances spanning the genres, the Doves have also served as a yearly barometer of how far Christian music has progressed stylistically, something that's highlighted in our selections for the best moments in the Doves' 40-year history.
In the Beginning...
Proving that adage 'the more things change, the more they stay the same,' Bill Gaither's Dove-winning streak began, well, in the beginning. Not only did he score the very first "Songwriter of the Year" trophy back in 1969, but he won that honor six more times and has amassed 18 total Doves in his career.
Fifty and Counting
But even Bill Gaither can't keep up with Steven Curtis Chapman, who has won more Doves than any artist in Christian music's history. And in honor of his 50th Dove Award victory back in 2006, a slew of his peers including Jeremy Camp, David Crowder, Casting Crowns' Mark Hall and Third Day's Mac Powell did a fantastic job of performing some of Chapman's greatest hits including "For the Sake of the Call," "More to This Life," Magnificent Obsession" and "I Will Be Here." For the record, Chapman was only seven years old when the Doves flew for the first time.
Two words: "Jesus Freak." In a category the likes of Amy Grant, Point of Grace and Michael W. Smith had won again and again, it was almost crazy to think a song by a trio of Nirvana look-alikes had a chance. But that all changed in 1996 when the industry's voters got brave and elected dcTalk as the evening's grand marshals. Not only did the former Liberty University alums perform an electrifying version of the song, but they scored the night's biggest honor, "Artist of the Year," in addition to "Song of the Year." Not a bad night at the Doves, one that certainly paved the road ahead for future rockers.
Sandi Patty has had her fair share of success at the Doves, too, with 39 trophies in all, thanks to that gorgeous soprano, window-rattling voice of hers. But in 1991, she showcased a more restrained, yet still hauntingly beautiful vocal performance alongside Wayne Watson with "Another Time, Another Place." Sure, their outfits look incredibly dated today (hello sparkles for Patty, hello mullet for Watson!), but those amazing vocals really never go out of style.
Behold the Pink Pantsuit
As Christian music fans continued debating whether it was wrong for an explicitly Christian artist to cross over into mainstream music like Amy Grant did with Heart in Motion, Amy wowed with a whimsical performance of “Every Heartbeat,” complete with a killer backup singers. For those who enjoy keeping up with fashion, Amy was smack dab in the middle of her pink pantsuit phase, complete with those spirally face-framing tendrils.
S.C.C. Are You With Me?
The first time I saw the Doves up close and personal in 1998, I'll never forget how Kirk Franklin and God's Property brought down the house with "Stomp." And if all the singing and dancing wasn't joyous enough, Franklin's shout-outs to a slew of Christian artists made it all the more fun.
A Rich Moment
Singer/songwriter Rich Mullins may have been a bit of a misfit, or a ragamuffin as he often referred to himself, but his music was universally loved. Contributing so many of the songs we still sing on Sunday mornings today, Mullins, like so many great artists, left the earth far too soon. While he never won a Dove Award while he was still alive, it proved to be "better late than never" when Mullins received the recognition he deserved by winning both "Song of the Year" for "My Deliverer" and "Artist of the Year" in 1998.
Breaking the New Artist "Curse"
When Jeremy Camp was named "New Artist of the Year" in 2004, he officially broke what I considered the new artist "curse." Beginning with Jennifer Knapp in 1999 and continuing through 2003 with Ginny Owens, Plus One, ZOEgirl and Paul Colman Trio, artists seemed to all but disappear from the Christian music radar not long after winning the award, but Camp didn't.
Getting It Right in 2005
After more than a decade in Christian music, Switchfoot finally got its due after the mainstream breakthrough success of its album, A Beautiful Letdown. Although frontman Jon Foreman and Co. weren't there to accept the award, TobyMac accepted it on their behalf, giving a thoughtful speech about the impact they've made on modern culture. Also showcasing the tremendous diversity of artists in Christian music, The Crabb Family won four of the evening's biggest awards, which was also right on target.
A Tribute to Columbine
In a moment where I seriously wished I had a tissue in my purse, Michael W. Smith offered a very moving rendition of "This is Your Time" as a tribute to the slain students at Columbine in 2000. Adding an extra level of emotion to an already-stellar performance was the somber bagpipe outro that left the entire audience in silence.
Rockin’ the Opry
In stark contrast to their peers Casting Crowns, Kari Jobe and even TobyMac who all performed before them, Red, along with guest guitarist Brian “Head” Welch (formerly of mainstream rockers Korn) earned a standing ovation after cranking up the decibels for “Fight Inside” and “Death of Me” in 2010. On a side note, I’ll still never forget the look on the older gentleman’s face sitting next to me. It was ghost-white, and I’m pretty sure he said something like “My, Christian music has changed over the years, hasn’t it?” Yeah, it most certainly has.
Kickin’ Fear to the Curb
While it’s difficult to imagine the Doves being held anywhere other than Nashville, a change of venue kept things particularly exciting in 2011. Held only four hours south of Music City at Atlanta’s historic Fox Theater, the evening was filled with top-notch performances from every genre. But if pressed to pick a moment that I still remember a year later, well, it was Mary Mary’s energetic anthem “Never Wave My Flag,” a relevant reminder that fear is really a gigantic waste of time when God is with us.
Copyright 2012, watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.
About the Writer
After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, Crosswalk.com (she reviews movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media, Songs4Worship.com, PassAlong.com and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.
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