Carman. This name is synonymous with the world of Christian music. From drawing the largest crowd ever recorded for a solo Christian event to making his mark in movies, his unique musical style has literally taken him all over the world. Carman Domenic Licciardello has received numerous accolades, but his greatest goal is not to win awards, but to win souls for Christ.
Music was an important part of Carman’s life even in his early years. When he was only five years old, he began learning to play the drums. Ten years later, he learned to play the guitar; then he began singing when he was 16 years old. Although his musical background was certainly a positive aspect of his childhood, Carman’s adolescence was not one filled with perfect harmony. His hostile behavior eventually sent him to the Bordentown Military Institute for two years.
Soon, Carman’s life was back on track and he studied acting at the Abbey Playhouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was playing the club circuit from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, even though he was still a juvenile. Lucrative offers were coming his way, and he was in the midst of trying to figure out the next step on his journey when he found out that God had an entirely different plan.
One night, Carman heard Andraé Crouch in concert. It was at this concert that Carman realized that God was taking him on a detour, which would change the course of his life forever.
The singer credits Crouch with having the greatest influence on his life.
“His music lead me to the Lord and gave me a life-long standard to follow,” says Carman.
Even though his musical journey may not have started in gospel music, Carman quickly made it his goal to surround himself with some of the best gospel music artists in the business.
“When I first got saved in 1976, I became the lead guitarist in a Southern gospel group, Reba and the Son-Lighters. I was pitching songs to Elvis through his bodyguard, Ed Parker, and we always met up at Southern gospel concerts in the mid-70’s, so I got a chance to see all the greats,” Carman shares.
Instead of playing the club circuit, Carman released his first solo LP, “God’s Not Finished With Me,” in 1980. Just two years later, he released his “Some-O-Dat” LP, and in 1983, “Sunday’s on the Way,” a live album that topped the Contemporary Christian Music charts. Just a few years later, he was named the first Favorite Male Vocalist of the Year for the Charisma Magazine Reader’s Choice Awards. Later, he was named Billboard Magazine’s Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year.
Carman has had a large number of chart-topping hits through the years, including “This Blood,” “Lazarus Come Forth,” and “Revival in the Land.” One of his most iconic songs is “The Champion,” which stayed on the Billboard charts for a record-breaking 168 weeks.
When asked how some of his most popular songs came to be, Carman says, “The simple story is that I wrote them from pieces of sermons I heard along the way. I never studied music, but I did study acting at the Abby Playhouse in Philadelphia, so my skill set was in theater. These songs are simply theatrical imagery set to pop music.”
Carman has had tremendous success with pairing music with components of theatre. He is the co-founder of the Parable Christian Film Festival, and he has spearheaded many movie and film projects, such as his nationwide release, Carman: The Champion, which he not only starred in, but also wrote.
“Anything you do to visualize your music helps bring it more to life,” Carman states. “I’ve done thirty music videos and three films, but it all gets back to the music.”
When you consider Carman’s musical career, his list of achievements is extensive, from Grammy nominations to Dove Awards. He was even the first Christian music artist to earn a place in the “Parade of Champions” at the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.
The dramatist has appeared on the Bobby Jones Gospel Hour, TBN, and even his own primetime special in 1999, titled, Halloween: 3:16, which reportedly resulted in over 70,000 first-time decisions for Christ. From Mardi Gras in New Orleans to Madison Square Garden in New York, Carman has appeared on many prominent stages, both sacred and secular.
This gentleman had sold over ten million albums, has 15 platinum and gold albums, and experienced unprecedented success in the music industry. He is blessed to have a supportive family who understands the importance of sharing the gospel, even after being in full-time ministry for over three decades.
“Because I’ve been doing this full time since 1981, my family and friends know I’m a traveling man by nature,” Carman says. “We just work around events like holidays and birthdays from years of experience.”
On the road, Carman travels with several well-known individuals in the Southern gospel music industry. His team consists of manager Matt Felts, former vocalist for the Dixie Melody Boys, the Lesters, and Perfect Heart; product specialist Joseph Reed, who has been involved with Southern gospel radio for 30 years; and Mike Garner, former bus driver for the Nelons for the last 15 years.
Carman is excited about his new music single titled, “The Flag,” which will be released in honor of the 4th of July. He invited a special all-star gospel quartet to back him up on this song, including Ernie Haase, Joseph Habedank, Pat Barker, and Matt Felts.
Additionally, he is currently working on a rock opera. Carman says, “I took 16 of my songs and put them in order to map out the life of Christ. I call it Christ the Champion, so it’s like a rock and roll passion play.”
Carman’s musical repertoire may include song titles like “Addicted to Jesus” and “Sunday School Rock,” but his favorite songs are the classic hymns of the church.
“Truthfully, I love singing hymns more than anything,” says Carman. “When I’m on stage, those minister me more than any song I have written.”
Carman’s latest project, “Legacy,” is a compilation of 20 songs, covering 30 years of ministry. One of the songs on this album is a medley featuring “How Great Thou Art” and “Great Is Our God.”
Carman shares, “I was singing ‘How Great Thou Art’ one day to myself in the car. My habit is to sing a well-known song, shut it off, and keep singing a new part. When I sang the melody to ‘Great Is Our God,’ it felt right. I sang it to myself for a year, and then decided to put it on a record.”
Although he has had many experiences that most people can only dream about, Carman has stayed grounded, realizing the purpose for ministry. His ministry has raised close to 10,000 sponsorships for needy children through Child Fund. He also has two non-profit organizations, Carman Ministries and Carman World Outreach.
Carman is currently traveling across the United States on his Legacy Tour. He shares what an evening on tour will include: “The songs I know they are going to want to hear, but mostly a night of ministry, fun, praise, laughs, and life-changing moments. That’s what people expect from me and I take it seriously, wanting to deliver it consistently night after night. Come to a concert and let’s connect face to face. Seeing the people that I minister to and hearing their stories means the most to me. I love the meet and greet more than the music.”
Aside from his musical tours and his many world outreaches, he confesses, “The thing that means the most to me is when I’m singing at a church and the pastor tells me he was led to the Lord at one of my concerts years ago. That’s the biggest compliment.”
Having been through a recent battle with cancer, Carman has grown stronger in his faith. Now he encourages others with these words of wisdom, reminding everyone that we should never waste any time: “You never know when the Lord will call you home and you want to show up with lots of souls; definitely wouldn’t want to show up in Heaven empty handed.”
He strives to live by Hebrews 12:14 (KJV), which says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Ever since he committed his life to Christ, Carman has continually endeavored to live a peaceful life, shining forth the light of Jesus Christ in all he does. He also understands the importance of telling others about salvation through Jesus Christ, just as the Great Commission calls us to do.
“I would love to be able to set a standard for soul winning through Christian music,” says Carman. “We often only think about evangelists as soul winners, the greatest of all time being Billy Graham. But how often have we ever had the discussion, ‘Who is the greatest soul winner in Christian Music?’ It’s a goal we should all be challenged by and aspire to. It will only mean more souls in Heaven, and that’s a great goal.”
From the United States to South Africa and many places in between, he continues to travel around the world, with the primary goal of being a witness to others with the hope that they will come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Carman does not sing to promote himself, but to share the Gospel. Through every word spoken and every note sung, Carman is leaving a lasting legacy.
For more information on Carman’s Legacy Tour, visit online HERE.
By Jennifer Campbell
First published by SGNScoops Magazine in July 2019
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