After a 40-year career in Christian music, Carman died in Las Vegas Tuesday night due to complications from surgery. He was 65.
He was a one-name celebrity, and for those who knew him, the Christian singer and showman ranked in the highest echelons of American stardom, up there with the other mononymous divas: Madonna. Cher. Liberace. Carman.
For those who didn’t know him, the single name was repeated as a question. Carman? But if Carman’s star never quite secured its place at the zenith of American fame, he never let that dim his belief in his own celebrity, the awesome power of the concert-show-crusade-event, and his commitment to producing a pop spectacle for Jesus.
“The music is the best means I have of reaching the most people in the quickest way to win them to Christ,” Carman said. “I think an artist owes it to his audience to thrill them and impress them. It lets people know there is joy in being Christian.”
Carman, born Carmelo Domenic Licciardello and raised the youngest of three children in an Italian American family in Trenton, New Jersey, won seven Dove Awards. He was nominated for four Grammys, named Billboard’s Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year in 1990 and 1992, and sold more than 10 million albums. In 2013, 30 years after his first hit and on the heels of his cancer diagnosis, his fans raised $280,000 for him to go on a 60-city tour.
“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,” Matt Felts, Carman’s manager, said in tribute. “This world has lost a light in the darkness, but today Carman saw firsthand the fruit of his labors.”