Gospel Music Hall of Fame Welcomes New Members
The enduring power of music to communicate the gospel was a recurring theme as the Gospel Music Hall of Fame welcomed a new crop of inductees this week. Aretha Franklin, Ricky Skaggs, Love Song, The Hoppers, Dallas Holm and the late Rex Humbard were honored during a special event hosted by Jaci Velasquez and Jason Crabb at Trinity Music City just outside Nashville.
“Music does something that the spoken word does not,” said Tommy Coomes, a founding member of pioneering Christian rock band Love Song. “I would never, ever take anything away from the word of God. It’s all powerful. Every part of it will remain forever and not one thing will be missed, but there’s something about the language of the soul in music that stays with us. You can’t remember a sermon from last Sunday, but you will remember a song. There’s something about a message in music that touches us all.”
Before welcoming Love Song to the stage, Michael W. Smith recalled how the group’s debut album impacted him as a teenager in his West Virginia hometown. “I’m not sure if I’d be doing what I’m doing today if it had not been for Love Song and that record,” Smith said. “[It] changed my life.”
The evening was a celebration in story and song. Greg Long and Gordon Mote performed a tribute to singer-songwriter Dallas Holm. Long shared an energetic rendition of “Hey, I’m a Believer.” Mote delivered a compelling version of Holm’s “Rise Again” and Holm joined him on stage to sing the resurrection classic. Holm’s grown children, Jeff and Jennifer, spoke eloquently and affectionately about their father’s impact on their family as well as the millions who embraced his music.
“I was doing pretty good back there until my kids got up and then I just lost it,” Holm told the crowd in his acceptance speech. “A late uncle of mine used to say what we are is nothing more than a composite of the influences of others, and I never have realized that more than now. I thank the Lord Jesus for saving me, for calling me, for using me. I thank my wife of 42 years. She’s battled cancer for 25 of those years. She’s the real Hall-of-Famer. In all the world, there’s no one I respect or admire more than my wife.”
The family of pioneering television evangelist Rex Humbard took the stage to accept their father’s honor. A native of Little Rock, Ark., Humbard was the first evangelist to have a weekly nationwide television program in the United States, running from 1952 to 1983. His daughter Elizabeth, who was joined on stage by her brothers Rex, Jr., Don and Charles, spoke of her father’s great love of music and his passion for seeing souls saved.
The Talleys performed a powerful musical tribute to the Hoppers, who joined them on stage for a rousing rendition of “Jerusalem” before moving to the podium to accept their honor. “I really wanted to be a bluegrass singer,” said family patriarch Claude Hopper. “I started out with a $7 guitar. Over in North Carolina we cured tobacco and we’d sit around in tobacco barns and I’d listen to Ricky Skaggs on radio. I thought he was the greatest bluegrass singer I’d ever heard in my life. Little did I know that we’d be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame together.”
“We’re so honored and humbled,” Kim Hopper said from the red carpet. “We feel it’s really important that we speak to families to love each other and be good to each other, 'cause you never know what tomorrow holds. To be able to present the cross and Jesus Christ and Him lifted up – what a wonderful thing! And then for your peers to say ‘well done, thy good and faithful servant,’ that’s such an amazing thing.”
Bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent introduced a video chronicling Ricky Skaggs' stellar career from his performing with the legendary Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs as a child, to his award-winning country music career to his return to bluegrass. Darrin Vincent recalled playing in Skaggs’ band for 11 years before he and Jamie Dailey started their duo, and how much he had learned about music and life from the Kentucky-born artist. Jason Crabb performed a gorgeous rendition of Skaggs’ hit “Somebody’s Praying for Me” while the Isaacs served up a medley of Skaggs’ country hits.
“I never thought anything like this would happen for me,” an emotional Skaggs said. “[In] bluegrass music, country music maybe if I worked real hard, but for the Gospel Music Association to honor me like this... it’s one of those that I didn’t see coming because I don’t consider myself a Christian artist and there are so many Christian artists who so much more deserve this. This is their field. They go week after week after week, year after year, mile after mile and spread the gospel and we go to casinos and beer joints and rough places. I’ve played places so rough that when you walk in the front door, they’d give you a knife if you didn’t have one.”
During his acceptance speech, Skaggs thanked his wife Sharon and her family. He also spoke of how Humbard invited him to sing on his television show. “I said, ‘Brother Rex, why in the world would you want me on your television show?’ And he said, ‘Well, son, you draw us a crowd that needs to hear about Jesus. You draw a country music crowd. You sing for them and I’ll preach to them.’ I said, ‘You’ve got a deal!’ I’ll never forget that. He trusted the Lord that was in me and I have grown and matured so much since then. He was a real encouragement, he and [his wife] Maude Aimee. Both are precious, precious saints and I loved them both dearly. They gave me a Prophecy edition Rex Humbard Bible and it’s my favorite Bible. I’ve carried it on the road for 30 some years now, maybe even longer. I’ve worn a couple of them out.”
During his lengthy career, Skaggs has been awarded many honors, including 14 GRAMMYs, eight CMA Awards, eight ACM Awards and 11 IBMA Awards. He confesses there’s something especially rewarding about being recognized for his faith-based music. “It’s really special. The GRAMMYs and all those things I’ve won are very nice,” he says, “but to be awarded and to have something like this because of my faith, it’s more special than any award I’ve won.”
Though known around the world as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin’s stellar talent was first discovered in her father’s church and nurtured by family friends and gospel legends such as Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward. Though unable to attend the induction ceremony, Franklin accepted via video and shared her thoughts on the honor.
“It means an awful lot to me,” she said in her taped segment. “Of course, this is where I come from. My roots and my background are in gospel. My dad, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, pastored the New Bethel Baptist Church for 38 years. [That] is where I came from out of the junior choir so to receive this beautiful award means an awful lot to me. I will put it in a very, very special place. Thank you so much.”
The evening concluded with Nathan and Suzanne Young, the group Kairos and the legendary Dottie Peoples performing a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Crabb, Velasquez and Dr. Bobby Jones joined in for an all-star finale and uplifting end to a powerful night of music.
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About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications. A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.
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