Carman Domenic Licciardello, the trailblazing Christian contemporary music artist who packed arenas and was better known as “Carman” by fans, died Tuesday due to complications from a surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. He was 65.
Carman won seven Dove Awards during the 1990s and was as famous for his on-stage performances as his music. In 1994, more than 71,000 attended his concert at Texas Stadium, then the home of the Dallas Cowboys. More than 80,000 attended a concert in Chattanooga, Tenn.
He was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2018.
His first big hit was 1985’s The Champion.
His music videos were popular, too. He won Dove Awards for long-form music video of the year in 1989 (Carman Live: Radically Saved), 1991 (Revival in the Land) and 1993 (Addicted to Jesus). He also won a Dove Award for short-form music video in 1991 for Revival in the Land.
He starred in several films, including The Book of Ruth (2009) and Carman: The Champion (2001).
Billboard named him the Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year in 1992 and 1995.
“When Carman resumed touring again a few years ago, he was concerned that no one would care that he was back. He was wrong,” Matt Felts, Carman’s manager, told CCM Magazine. “Every night fans packed out venues and his ministry was as powerful as it ever was. This world has lost a light in the darkness but today Carman saw first-hand the fruit of his labors.”
He was set to begin a 60-city tour this month.
Christian music artists posted their memories of Carman on social media after his death.
“We remember you Carman......we are grateful for the times we had with you,” TobyMac, a member of the group DC Talk, tweeted. “You were so kind to me, Michael and Kevin. When we were young punks, you welcomed us. You are home now. A Champion for real.”
We remember you Carman......we are grateful for the times we had with you. You were so kind to me, Michael and Kevin. When we were young punks, you welcomed us. You are home now. A Champion for real.— TobyMac (@tobymac) February 17, 2021
“He was a legend in our camp and in our genre,” Danny Gokey tweeted. “He re-wrote all the rules – I remember listening to his albums as a kid. RIP Carman.”
Carman passed away. He was a legend in our camp and in our genre. He re-wrote all the rules—I remember listening to his albums as a kid. RIP Carman 😢— Danny Gokey (@dannygokey) February 17, 2021
“Well done, good and faithful servant,” Jason Crabb tweeted. Crabb added that Carman’s concert was the first CCM concert he attended.
“He was a trendsetter and a trailblazer,” Crabb wrote. “... I know there are millions today who accepted Christ at one of his concerts. … He made it cool to be a Christian.”
Well done, good and faithful servant. My thoughts on Carman’s passing. pic.twitter.com/Qcw32fj5M7— Jason Crabb (@JasonCrabbMusic) February 17, 2021
Photo courtesy: Natalie Parham/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.