Carman Domenic Licciardello is an enigma in Christian music, often described as part evangelist, part Vegas Showman. His concerts were more like a rock and roll Billy Graham Crusade than a Christian music event. After all the singing, dancing, clapping and preaching, throngs of people would stream down to the counseling area to accept Christ-many times as many as 5,000 in an evening. Admission was usually free, a simple offering taken, similar to 30,000 churches on Sunday mornings. And he filled the largest stadiums the world over. In fact, Carman holds the record for the largest Christian concert ever in Dallas, Texas. But it even goes beyond that. If you take the Mega Stadium acts that played the famed landmark such as Pink Floyd, U 2, Madonna, The Jackson Five, Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks and even Metallic, you’ll see that, as the newspapers noted, the one act that drew the highest attendance in Texas Stadium was Carman, with 71,132. This is more than just an A-list artist-this man is a Cultural Phenomenon.
So how can we classify his music? Is it pop, comedy, Broadway, rap, country, rock or soul? The answer is yes–to all. There’s no way you can classify a Carman song by its style but rather by the shear blunt-force impact delivery in a persons life, with an unmistakable Gospel message.
If there is any original trademark to Carman’s repertoire, it is what we could only identify as a ‘story song’. A combination of drama, rock, comedy, funk, satire, acting, singing, and preaching, all woven together by an unpredictable wit that can only be described as a full length feature film in 7 minutes. A style not duplicated or even attempted by any other artist in any other musical genre. With compositions like “Sunday’s on the Way”, “The Champion”, “Lazarus Come Forth”, “Revival in the Land”, “Witches Invitation”, “This Blood” and even “The Courtroom”, simply put, Carman is a true American original.
As a boy, Carman played the drums at 5, the guitar at 15 and he began singing at 16. His aggressive, spitfire nature landed him in Bordentown Military Institute for two years. As his talents developed, Carman studied acting at the Abbey Playhouse in Philadelphia. Still under aged, he played the club circuit starting in Atlantic City, then throughout New Jersey and Philadelphia clubs. Soon following, Carman was approached by a Capo in the real life Sopranos The DeCalvcante’ Crime Family to ‘represent his interests and help his career’, only to say, “I’ll decide when I get back from Vegas.” In his 1973 green Chevy Vega, Carman drove off to begin his journey. In this short season of time, Carman attended an Andrae Crouch concert and was so moved that he became a Christian, enraging those left behind waiting on a decision.
Music, Ministry, Achievements and Accolades:
Carman released his first LP, “God’s not finished with me”, which garnered the attention of CBS, following in 1982 with the “Some-O-Dat” LP. A string of CCM chart successes began with his song “Sunday’s On the Way” from the live album of the same name in 1983. Soon after, he would establish two major non-Profit organizations. Carman Ministries and Carman World Outreach.
Between 1987 and 1989 Carman was named Charisma Magazine’s Readers’ Choice for the first “Favorite Male Vocalist of the Year.” In 1990 Billboard Magazine recognized Carman’s influence in Christian music by naming him the first “Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year.” He has received 15 gold and platinum albums and videos and has sold over 10 million records. Carman holds other attendances records for the largest solo Christian concerts in history with: 80,000 outdoors in Charlotte, North Carolina and 50,000 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He still remains the only Christian “stadium act” ever. He had the Longest #1 Record on Billboard CCM sales chart at 33 weeks. His “Champion” record stayed on the Billboard overall sales charts for a record 168 weeks! Carman has also has written songs for several motion pictures including The Prince of Egypt and the documentary Jesus Camp.
Television/Film Acting and Writing:
Carman had the largest TV audience for any solo Christian Music event on Halloween in 1999 which produced the largest alter call ever–over 70,000 people committing their lives to Christ. In concert he has seen a million walk down the isle for salvation. Additionally, Carman collected the most names on a petition in American history by any individual–1 million signatures for a constitutional amendment favoring prayer in public school.
In 1997 Carman acted in and wrote the Movie R.I.O.T. He trained for the fight scenes with U.F.C. founder Rorion Gracie and 3-time U.F.C Champion Royce Gracie. In 2001, Carman starred in and wrote the full-length film The Champion, preparing for 6 months with boxing famed coach Terry Claybon, “The Hurricane” and renowned acting coach Ivana Chubbuck, who also played the roll of Boaz in the 2008 production of Ruth and recently the role of Frankie, the psychotic truck driver, in The Gun scheduled for a 2009 release.
The past few years he’s written several new screenplays, acted, had many live concerts, various TV productions including “Time 2” and “Reality Check” series and developed the biggest and most exhaustive solo artist internet site on the web, sacred or secular, at Carman.org.
It’s no surprise that Carman is the co-founder of the Parable Christian Film Festival and received the Humanitarian Award. Other recipients include former President and Mrs. Regan, Dr. Pat Robertson, Drs Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Dr. Bill Bright, Senator Roger and Dee Jepsen, Rich Devos, founder of Amway, and Dr. Billy Graham.
Currently in development, Carman is bringing the novel he wrote “Undefeated: In Love and War”, an action love story about a U.F.C. fighter in the witness protection program who meets the love of his life while she is also in hiding. Neither knowing the others true identity. Titled “Jack and the Big 10”, can a man break all 10 Commandments and still hope for a bright future?
Among the greatest of Carman’s contributions to Christianity at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century is his bringing back a full force, worship revival-not just through song and music but also through dance and drama. Carman’s presentations, done with excellence to large audiences, revolutionized the arts and Christian music. Carman has brought much needed encouragement to the arts in church though the introduction of both male and female dancers, drama and simultaneous video and life presentations on stage to unusually large audiences. From Madison Square Garden to national television, Carman’s delivery and style were truthful, bold and uncompromising presentations of the gospel.
Today Carman has developed an original concept for ministry to a new generation called “Carman: For Real-For Now” which he is currently touring.
No matter what Carman does, it will be different, never seen before and unusually original. This is exactly what we’d expect from a musical icon. It goes without saying that still, to this day Carman defies description and definition and remains a cultural phenomenon-a true American original.