Pioneering Christian musician Carman dies at 65

Misty Castile
Fort Smith Times Record
Christian music pioneer Carman died on Feb. 16, 2021 at age 65.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the status of Jay DeMarcus to the band Rascal Flatts.  He is still a member of the band.

Gospel Music Hall of Fame member, Carman, died Tuesday in a Las Vegas hospital, after fighting a series of complications resulting from surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. He was 65.

Carman had previously been diagnosed with myeloma cancer, which after six years in remission had returned in January 2020. He had received several cancer treatments at UAMS in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Born Jan. 19, 1956, in Trenton, New Jersey, Carman began playing drums in his mother’s band at the age of 15.

He holds the world record for having the largest audience to see a single Christian artist and set the record for the largest concert at Texas Stadium in 1994 with more than 71,000 fans.

Among his many awards, Carman received the House of Hope of Humanitarian Award for his positive influence in the lives of American youth in 2006, other noted recipients of this award include Ronald & Nancy Reagan and Billy Graham.

The Gospel Music Association honored Carman with induction into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Carman was Grammy-nominated multiple times as the Best Pop Contemporary Gospel Artist. His recording, “A Long Time Ago in a Land Called Bethlehem” was nominated for “Album of the Year” by the Recording Academy in 1986. 

Carman has been credited with pioneering the contemporary Christian music genre.  His music encompassed a wide variety of styles from worship to rap, to ballads and country. 

Jay DeMarcus, a member of country group Rascal Flatts and current owner of Red Street Records toured with Carman in the '90s. He recalled the singer's inspiring stage shows, saying they were "without equal".

"He was the consummate pro, and I was proud to call him my friend."

Other artists took to social media to express their condolences.  

Former American Idol alum Danny Gokey called Carman a "legend in our camp and in our genre. He re-wrote all the rules." 

Toby Mac, who started his career as one-third of the group DC Talk before launching a successful solo career recalled how the Carman welcomed the group. 

In a press release, Matt Felts, Carman's manager, stated: "When Carman resumed touring again a few years ago, he was concerned that no one would care that he was back. He was wrong. 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."

Carman was planning to embark on a 60-city tour later this month.