Michael W. Smith Biography

Michael Whitaker Smith, 7 October 1957, Kenova, Wayne County, West Virginia, USA. One of the most popular contemporary Christian artists, Smith, the son of an oil refinery worker and caterer, became a Christian aged 10. However, after his ‘support network’ broke up following high school, Smith was drawn to drink and drugs. Those travails have provided much of his subject matter since. By 1978 he had moved to Nashville to work as a songwriter, a time that included a short period in the band Rose. He was still using drugs, but in October 1979 was ‘born again’ after an emotional breakdown. He auditioned for the Christian band Higher Ground, and toured with them as a keyboard player. In 1981, he secured a contract to be staff writer for Meadowgreen Music, where he wrote gospel hits for Kathy Trococoli, Bill Gaither, Amy Grant and Sandi Patty. He joined Grant’s touring band in 1982 and released his debut solo album the following year.

From then on Smith became a leading figure in contemporary Christian music’s renaissance, and is a regular winner at the Gospel Music Association Awards. After 1984’s Michael W. Smith 2, which won a Grammy for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, his albums became more rock-orientated. Some of his songs reached secular and mainstream consumers too, notably 1991’s Top 10 hit, ‘Place In This World’ and the following year’s Adult Contemporary chart-topper, ‘I Will Be Here For You’. His move to expand his market reach caused some anxiety to his core Christian audience, but was a successful one as Change Your World achieved platinum status. He also established himself as a bestselling author, using his own experiences as a born again Christian to promote moral well-being. In 1996, I’ll Lead You Home earned him his second Grammy for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. On 1999’s This Is Your Time each song featured a different lyricist and Smith called on songwriters from the Christian, pop and country traditions, including Cindy Morgan, Wes King and Ginny Owens. Smith co-wrote, ‘She Walks With Me’, a tribute to his daughter, with Beth Neilsen Chapman and with Nik Kershaw, ‘Hey You It’s Me’, a song dedicated to his wife. The title track concerned events at Columbine High School. Smith had been invited to perform at the memorial service for the victims of the shooting. He penned the song in tribute to Cassie Bernall, the girl who was allegedly shot by the Columbine killers when she replied in the affirmative to the question ‘Do you believe in God?’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.