Reading CCM issues can sometimes feel like whiplash. There are so many articles and interviews talking about perfection and having the highest standards and doing everything with excellence. And then there are issues that are all about struggling and the hard things of life. This issue is one that is seemingly about struggling, talking to artists about struggles with finding balance with career and life as well as struggles in life, as well as a pastoral piece about an artist, Vince Ebo, who died by suicide earlier in the year.
In March 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to attacking Nancy Kerrigan, Schindler’s List won Best Picture at the Oscars, Wayne Gretzky set an NHL record with 802 goals scored, and Michael Jordan started his baseball career on the Chicago White Sox’s minor league team.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like this header that says Celebrate Life is subliminally not about music at all…
from a letter to the editor...
“I’ve been a subscriber to your wonderful magazine for around two years, and I love it. I like the different styles you cover, and I particularly like metal. I noticed in your January 94 issue that the metal charts were missing and I was quite disappointed. What happened? Why was it left out? I hope it will be back next month.”
“At this point in the ongoing growth of Christian music and this magazine, we feel that publishing the metal chart no longer meets the needs of the majority of our subscribers. We will, of course, continue to cover the hard rock artists and bands whose appeal reaches more of our readers (most of these show up on our rock chart anyway). For metal heads that just can’t get enough, we would recommend Heaven's Metal magazine.”
In the interview with popular artist Steve Green, he says:
“In our nation particularly, we're crumbling from within. It’s just not very hard to watch the news or travel or read the newspaper and realize that we have lost shame. We have lost the ability to blush. It’s a flaunting of our sin without restraint and that’s a scary thing. I think (the solution) is revival. I think it has to start first in me. I need to tenderize my heart and stir up in me a deep love for Christ, and work in me a holiness that isn’t a list of dos and don'ts, but is a relationship. Then that has to happen to the church as a whole to affect our society.”
This is an ad for a couple of christian dance albums, and the “Politically Incorrect, dittoheads” caught my eye. If you weren’t submerged in the world of 1990s conservative talk radio, you might not know that Dittoheads was what followers of Rush Limbaugh were called - which tracks with the politically incorrect part as well. I’ve seen Scott Blackwell’s name pop up in several issues, and turns out he was a pretty significant guy in CCM history, starting a label in 1994 to produce christian dance music. His most well-known albums were probably the Nitro Praise ones, but he also gave us World Wide Message Tribe.
In 2021, Commissioned was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame!
Pam Mark Hall
I went down a little rabbit hole with this article, because I had a cassette of one of her albums, Supply and Demand, and I used to listen to it allll the time. In this interview, it says:
“She’s also seen how empty it all can be. Five years ago, Pam’s life came, as she put it, ‘unraveled,’ as her marriage crumbled, her record company dropped her from its roster, and she supported herself and her daughter with a series of odd jobs…”
What this article doesn’t say is that her record company dropped her *because* of her divorce. So I thought, maybe it’s a coincidence. But, knowing the stories of Sandi Patty and Amy Grant, I of course wondered and went looking. And it turns out, the story is pretty sad and infuriating.
“Behind the scenes, her marriage was crumbling amid the conflict between her public role as an independent singer and record producer and her domestic role as a woman forced to be submissive to her husband. In an era when Marabel Morgan’s “The Total Woman” was a best seller, female submission was part of the evangelical Christian framework for marriages. In 1987, Hall filed for divorce, citing infidelity and misogyny as reasons.”
This article is pretty thorough and good, and talks about how not only was she dropped by her label, but she was ostracized by the CCM industry. (At the bottom, the author mentions that a lot of the information is based on research done by Tim Dillinger who has his own CCM Newsletter!) I wish she would record the Angry Woman song that she wrote and is excerpted in the article.
What caught my eye in that article was this part – “In her early 20s, Hall was mentored by John Fischer, the contemporary Christian music (CCM) pioneer who founded the Discovery Art Guild at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto.”
That’s the same John Fischer who was part of CCM Magazine for decades, writing a column at the end of every issue…so that seems interesting in light of the whole ostracization by the industry thing. Then, in looking up that church, I came across a NYT article from last summer about religion and technology. The congregation of Peninsula Bible Church today includes “venture capitalists, tech workers and scientists,” and the pastor founded a group called “A.I. and Faith,” which “is an interfaith coalition of tech executives, A.I. researchers, theologians, ethicists, clergy members and engineers, all of whom…want to ‘help people of faith contribute to the conversation around ethics in artificial intelligence in a sophisticated way.’” From the home of CCM Pioneers to ethics in A.I. - fascinating.
Pam Mark Hall’s latest album, Mangle the Tango, is on Amazon and Spotify, along with her 1980 album Never Fades Away, and it looks like her other albums are on YouTube, which is how I am listening to “The Agony and The Glory” again.
a look at the top charts...
And then finally, even though the N*Soul music is considered dance/techno, there are lyrics, and some of the Politically Incorrect album can be found on YouTube, including Ditto Heads. Enjoy!
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I'm so thrilled to see Pam Mark Hall getting coverage here. What an important artist whose career was a signpost for several important women who would emerge in the years after her. Thank you for the shout-out....My interview with Pam will (finally!) be going live in December! I'll be sure to point people here as well!