Born in Trenton, this New Jersey native went on to become one of the major influences for the evolution of Christian music in the 1980s and 90s. “Discovered” by Bill Gaither, he proceeded to change the face of Christian contemporary music, being named Billboard’s CCM Artist of the Year in 1990. Sometimes serious, sometimes fun, always truthful, he became the inspiration for other Christian artists just starting out.
Concentrating these days more on global outreach, he broke the record for the largest solo Christian artist concert on August 15, 1993, by performing his “Music For Peace” crusade at Wanderers Stadium in South Africa before 50,000 people. He broke it again several years later, playing in a packed stadium in Texas before a crowd of over 70,000. These songs are a blend of my personal favorite mixed with his more enduring and popular songs throughout the years:
1. The Champion
Possibly the most famous song Carman has ever performed. This “story song” (featured on his early 1985 album of the same name) creates a metaphor of the Crucifixion, placing Jesus and Satan in opposite ends of a boxing ring.
2. Sunday’s On the Way
Another, earlier story song along the same vein and with same content, the title song “Sunday’s On the Way” from Carman’s 1983 album gave voice to Satan and his demons as they celebrated their victory and shuddered at their defeat. This song is still occasionally played on radio stations around Easter time.
3. Our Turn Now
Teaming up with the rock group Petra (see my “Top Ten” article on this group as well) to create this hard-hitting song on Carman’s 1991 “Addicted To Jesus” album, Carman explores the controversial topic of taking all mention of God out of our pledge and our school system.
4. Mission 3:16
Found on his 1998 album of the same name. Calling up images of James Bond throughout this song, the lyrics are at the same time both tongue-in-cheek and quite honest about living life as a Christian in these trying times. There’s a mix of this song later on the album, without vocals.
5. God Is Exalted
Of all places, “God Is Exalted” – found on his 1995 “R.I.O.T.” album – takes place on an airplane. It’s a serious subject with somewhat light-hearted lyrics, earning it a spot on my Top Ten list. The only thing that detracts from it is the muted effect the producers created to make you feel as though you were inside a pressurized airplane cabin.
6. Addicted To Jesus
The title song to his 1991 album, Carman teams up with then up-and-coming DC Talk. The resulting song they create showcases the group’s talent, as well as proving that the Jersey boy can rap.
7. Lazarus Come Forth
Another of Carman’s story songs, “Lazarus Come Forth” on his 1993 “Absolute Best” album views the Biblical account from the dead man’s perspective. It’s often considered one of Carman’s best songs, just under “The Champion”.
8. Radically Saved
The title song on his “Carman Live – Radically Saved!” album displays the limitations of technology from 1988, but is a solid choice for the Top ten list. This song showcases the artist’s talent that made him famous in the Christian contemporary circle.
9. Revival In the Land
Showing Carman’s penchant for story songs, “Revival In the Land” from his 1992 album of the same name gives us an “inside peek” at a conversation between Satan and one of his minions as they discuss the havoc they’re wreaking among humanity.
10. Great God
This song, found on Carman’s 1995 “The Standard” album isn’t last because it’s the least popular, but because it rounds out the full spectrum of his talent. Part rock ballad, part war cry, the lyrics in this song leave no room for interpretation. Here Carman establishes himself as a writer of praise songs as well as a storyteller, showing he’s multifaceted and serious about his commitment to faith.