Michael W. Smith is an American musician who was born in 1957 in Kenova, West Virginia. He developed a love for music at a young age, playing in church and joining various bands. He also had a spiritual awakening that led him to dedicate his life and music to God.
Michael W. Smith, a multi-platinum musician, songwriter, and composer, has become synonymous with the contemporary Christian music (CCM) genre, crafting songs that resonate deeply with listeners around the world. His music, which seamlessly blends pop, rock, and gospel elements, has not only topped Christian music charts but has also made significant strides in mainstream music.
This article aims to shine a spotlight on Smith’s illustrious career, tracing the journey from his musical beginnings to his current endeavors. We will delve into his musical background and influences, highlighting key albums and songs such as “The Big Picture”, “Go West Young Man”, “Change Your World”, “Worship”, and “A New Hallelujah” that have defined his career. Furthermore, we will explore how his personal faith has shaped his music, providing examples of how his lyrics and musical themes reflect his relationship with God. Lastly, we will discuss the impact and legacy of Michael W. Smith in the Christian music industry.
Join us as we embark on this exciting journey, appreciating the artistry and faith of this influential Christian music icon.
Musical Background & Influences
Michael W. Smith was born in 1957 in Kenova, West Virginia, where he developed a love for music at a young age. He learned to play the piano as a child and sang in his church choir. He also had a spiritual awakening that led him to dedicate his life and music to God.
Smith moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1978, hoping to pursue a career in music. He faced many struggles and temptations in his early years, including substance abuse and depression. He overcame these challenges with the help of his faith and his friends. He began working as a session musician and a staff writer for various artists, such as Sandi Patti, Kathy Troccoli, and Amy Grant. He also played with several local bands, such as Rose and Higher Ground.
Smith’s music reflects his roots in pop, gospel, and rock music. His early influences include mainstream artists like The Beatles and Christian artists such as Andraé Crouch, whose music blended contemporary and gospel sounds. These influences are evident in Smith’s music, which often combines uplifting pop melodies with profound, faith-based lyrics.
Smith has not only been influenced by various artists, but he has also influenced many others in the music industry. His unique blend of pop-rock and gospel has paved the way for many contemporary Christian artists who followed his footsteps. His emotive songwriting and passionate performances have set a high standard in the Christian music scene, inspiring a new generation of artists to explore their faith through music. Some of the artists that Smith has influenced include Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, and MercyMe.
Key Albums & Songs
Michael W. Smith has released over thirty albums that span a range of genres from pop to gospel, showcasing his musical talent and diversity. His debut album, “Michael W. Smith Project” (1983), featured the hit song “Friends”, which has since become a classic in Christian music. The song expresses Smith’s gratitude for his friends who supported him through his difficult times.
One of his most significant works is the album “Go West Young Man” (1990), which includes the crossover hit “Place in This World”. This song not only topped the charts in the Christian genre but also made a mark on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 6. The song reflects Smith’s search for his purpose and identity in God.
Another notable album is “Worship” (2001), a live recording that captures the essence of Smith’s music and ministry. Songs like “Above All” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart” from this album have become staples in churches worldwide, demonstrating the global impact of Smith’s music. The album was recorded in front of an audience of 15,000 people at the Carpenter’s Home Church in Lakeland, Florida.
Some of Smith’s other representative albums and hit songs are:
- “The Big Picture” (1986), which was inspired by Smith’s trip to Africa with Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian organization. The album features songs that address issues such as poverty, injustice, and racism, such as “Pursuit of the Dream”, “As It Is in Heaven”, and “Nothin’ But the Blood”.
- “Change Your World” (1992), which was influenced by Smith’s involvement in social causes, such as founding Rocketown, a youth outreach center in Nashville, Tennessee. The album features songs that encourage listeners to make a positive difference in the world, such as “I Will Be Here for You”, “Color Blind”, and “Cross of Gold”.
- “I’ll Lead You Home” (1995), which was a response to Smith’s personal struggles, such as losing his grandfather and facing a midlife crisis. The album features songs that express Smith’s dependence on God and his desire to lead others to Him, such as “Cry for Love”, “Calling Heaven”, and “I’ll Lead You Home”.
- “A New Hallelujah” (2008), which was a celebration of Smith’s global ministry, recorded live in front of 12,000 people at the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. The album features songs that praise God for His goodness and power, such as “A New Hallelujah”, “Mighty to Save”, and “When I Think of You”.
Smith’s songs are not merely a fusion of catchy melodies and uplifting lyrics. They are heartfelt expressions of his faith, offering hope, encouragement, and solace to listeners. Whether it’s a pop-rock anthem or a poignant worship ballad, Smith’s music consistently resonates with a deep sense of spirituality.
These key albums and songs represent just a fraction of Smith’s impressive body of work. Each album, each song, tells a story, reflecting a particular phase of Smith’s life and faith journey.
Personal Faith & Its Influence on Music
Michael W. Smith’s music is deeply rooted in his faith. A devout Christian, Smith’s belief in God has been the cornerstone of his life and career, profoundly influencing his musical direction and output.
Smith’s faith is not merely a backdrop but the driving force behind his music. His lyrics often explore themes of redemption, hope, and divine love, offering listeners a window into his spiritual journey. For instance, in his song “Agnus Dei”, he sings the Latin phrase meaning “Lamb of God”, referring to Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. In his song “Healing Rain”, he uses the metaphor of rain to describe God’s grace and mercy that can heal the brokenness of humanity. In his song “Above All”, he uses imagery of nature and creation to contrast the majesty and humility of Christ. These songs are powerful testaments to his faith, reflecting his deep reverence for God and his commitment to sharing the Christian message through his music.
Moreover, Smith’s faith extends beyond the lyrics. The sincerity and passion with which he performs each song convey a sense of devotion, creating a spiritual connection with his audience. Whether leading worship in a church or performing at a concert, Smith’s music has consistently been a vessel for his faith, inspiring listeners to explore their own spiritual journeys.
However, Smith’s faith has not confined him to a particular musical style. Instead, it has expanded his artistic horizons, allowing him to experiment with various musical genres while maintaining his Christian message. This has resulted in a diverse discography that appeals to both Christian and mainstream audiences, reinforcing his status as a versatile and influential musician in the industry.
Smith’s faith has also brought him some challenges and criticisms along the way. As a Christian artist who has crossed over to the mainstream music scene, he has faced pressure from both sides to conform or compromise his beliefs. He has also faced controversy over some of his songs, such as “This Is Your Time”, which was inspired by Cassie Bernall, one of the victims of the Columbine High School shooting who was allegedly asked if she believed in God before being killed. Smith has responded to these challenges with grace and integrity, staying true to his faith and vision.
Current Work & Future Plans
Smith’s recent works highlight his continued commitment to producing faith-based music that resonates with a wide audience. His album “Awaken: The Surrounded Experience” (2019), is a testament to his enduring passion for worship music, featuring live performances that capture the energy and emotion of communal worship. The album was recorded in front of 14,000 people at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Looking ahead, Smith has several exciting projects and plans in store for his fans. He has announced a spring 2024 tour called “Forever”, which will feature hits spanning his decades-long career as well as new songs from his upcoming album. The tour will kick off in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on February 22 and will visit 22 cities across the US². He has also expressed interest in exploring new musical styles, possibly venturing into genres he has not previously experimented with, such as jazz or country. While maintaining the Christian message at the heart of his music, Smith is eager to push the boundaries of Christian music, further expanding its appeal to a broader audience.
Smith’s current work and future plans reflect his ongoing dedication to his faith and music. His career, marked by a passion for musical exploration and a deep spiritual commitment, continues to inspire and influence the Christian music scene. His new works show his growth as an artist, challenging him to try new things and express his faith in new ways.
We have reached the end of our journey through the career of Michael W. Smith, one of the most influential artists in the Christian music industry. Here are the key points we have discussed in this article:
- Musical Background & Influences: Smith’s musical journey began in his childhood, when he learned to play the piano and sang in his church choir. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1978, where he worked as a session musician and a staff writer for various artists. He was influenced by mainstream artists like The Beatles and Christian artists like Andraé Crouch, and he himself influenced many contemporary Christian artists such as Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, and MercyMe.
- Key Albums & Songs: Smith has released over thirty albums that span a range of genres from pop to gospel, showcasing his musical talent and diversity. Some of his most significant works include “Go West Young Man” (1990), which featured the crossover hit “Place in This World”, “Worship” (2001), which captured the essence of his music and ministry, and “A New Hallelujah” (2008), which celebrated his global ministry. His songs are heartfelt expressions of his faith, offering hope, encouragement, and solace to listeners.
- Personal Faith & Its Influence on Music: Smith’s faith is the driving force behind his music, profoundly influencing his musical direction and output. His lyrics often explore themes of redemption, hope, and divine love, using biblical references, metaphors, and imagery to convey his message. His sincerity and passion in performing each song create a spiritual connection with his audience, inspiring them to explore their own faith journeys.
- Current Work & Future Plans: Smith’s recent works highlight his continued commitment to producing faith-based music that resonates with a wide audience. His album “Awaken: The Surrounded Experience” (2019) is a testament to his enduring passion for worship music. He has announced a spring 2024 tour called “Forever”, which will feature hits spanning his decades-long career as well as new songs from his upcoming album. He has also expressed interest in exploring new musical styles, possibly venturing into genres he has not previously experimented with.
As we conclude, we can appreciate the impact and legacy of Michael W. Smith in the Christian music industry. His songs have not only topped charts but have also touched hearts, providing solace, hope, and inspiration to listeners worldwide. His unwavering faith, coupled with his musical prowess, has left an indelible mark on the Christian music scene. His legacy continues to inspire a new generation of artists, challenging them to express their faith through the universal language of music.
Michael W. Smith is more than just a musician. He is a storyteller, a minister, and a visionary. He is a shining star in the tapestry of Christian music, weaving a story of faith, perseverance, and musical excellence that echoes across time and space.
Thank you for joining us on this exciting journey. We hope you enjoyed this article as much as we enjoyed writing it for you.