Remembering Rich Mullins (1955-1997)
Sound and Spirit September 1997
Perhaps the most tragic loss in the Christian music industry in fifteen years,
Rich Mullins was killed September 19 in an auto accident near Peoria, Illinois, on the way to a benefit concert. Mullins was a prolific singer and songwriter, whose memorable tunes (including Awesome God, Verge of A Miracle and Hold Me Jesus) spoke timeless truths in such fresh ways as to have earned him the unofficial title of Christian muisc's poet laurete.
The music of Richard Wayne Mullins was first introduced to the Christian music community on Amy Grant's "Age To Age" album, where she recorded his mini-symphony Sing Your Praise To The Lord, and released it as the album's first single. It was to be the first of many trips to the top of the charts in a career that saw 22 singles from nine albums hit the airwaves, and nine of them reached #1. Mullins received 12 Dove nominations too, but such satistics were not a source of pride for this iconoclastic artist, who eschewed much of the industry "scene" to focus on his work with Native Americans in the Southwest and with Compassion International's work with the poor and impoverished children. As Mullins once stated, "I hope that I would leave a legacy of joy, a legacy of real compassion, because I think there's a great joy in compassion."
Just days before his death, Rich faxed us his goals and resolutions for 1998, for an upcoming feature in Sound and Spirit. He wrote: "My goal is to stop being grumpy. My resolution is my plan of attack:
a. Get up before I have to so I can have a half hour at least before I have to talk to anyone.
b. Spend an hour each early evening working out - do not hurry.
c. Unplug my phone - use my answering machine as a dart board. Throw ice cubes at it when I'm frustrated instead of making cutting remarks to people I love.
d. Stop expecting big successes and start celebrating the little ones.
e. Chart the movements of the Big Dipper and soak in the sun as much as possible. Live in a world that is bigger than my calendar - more permanent than my feelings, more glorious than my accomplishments (that should be easy)."
Rich Mullins was not only a highly skilled songwriter, but a proficient musician who played the piano, guitar and hammer dulcimer with a master's touch. His recordings boasted some of the most creative arrangements and production techniques in Christian music. But most, including artists like Michael W. Smith, will remember him for his words. "[His] life and music impacted me more than anyone I know," said Smith. "He had the ability to take the mundane and make it majestic. Nobody on this planet wrote songs like he did, and I feel we've lost one of the only true poets of our industry. I love Rich Mullins...and no one will ever know how much I'll miss him."
We'll miss you too, Rich. See you on the other side.