By Tom Campisi, publisher of tristatevoice.com
Carman, a legendary, trailblazing performer and member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, passed away on February 16 at the age of 65. The New Jersey native died at a Las Vegas hospital, after fighting a series of complications resulting from surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. A long fight with cancer hampered his recovery.
Carman Dominic Licciardello was born on January 19, 1956 in Trenton, New Jersey. He began his musical career playing drums in his mother’s band as a teenager. At age 20, he left Jersey and headed to California to pursue a career in secular music. He had a short stint as a lounge singer in Las Vegas, but became a Christian after attending an Andraé Crouch concert.
In the decades and gold records that followed, Carman’s music exalted the Lord, challenged Christians to bolder faith, and invited seekers to taste the goodness of God. 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 him with induction into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2018.
Billboard named Carman “Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year” in 1992 and 1995, and in 1993, his album, Addicted to Jesus, earned the distinction of Contemporary Christian Album of the Year. 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.
In 1985, the release of his first #1 song, “The Champion,” solidified his place in music history and defined his soul-winning career as one of endurance, grit, dedication, and pure talent.
Carman holds the world record for having the largest audience to see a single Christian artist. He set the record for the largest concert at Texas Stadium with more than 71,000 fans and led more than 80,000 fans in worship in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Locally, Carman played concerts at Madison Square Garden and at the Meadowlands Arena. He often ministered at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Christian Family Day.
“New Jersey is very comfortable for me. I’m very much at home with the way people talk and their attitude,” he told the Tri-State Voice before one of those events.
His 1996 concert at the Meadowlands Arena drew a capacity crowd of 20,000. Months before the event, counselors and youth leaders were recruited. They were there when a big crowd came forward to dedicate their lives to Christ at the end of the concert.
“Anyone who knew Carman knows that he counted only this as his greatest lifetime achievement – winning souls to Christ,” stated a press release from the Conduit Media Agency.
Upon his passing, Matt Felts, Carman’s manager, spoke about his enduring connection with his fans and his legacy.
“When Carman resumed touring again a few years ago, he was concerned that no one would care that he was back. He was wrong,” Felts said. “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.”