Michael W. Smith

Michael W. Smith Michael W. Smith

Michael Whitaker Smith (born October 7, 1957) is an American musician, who has charted primarily in the contemporary Christian and occasionally in the mainstream charts. His biggest success in mainstream music was in 1991 when "Place in this World" hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the course of his career, he has sold more than 18 million albums.

Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, an American Music Award recipient, and has earned 40 Dove Awards. In 1999, ASCAP awarded him with the "Golden Note" Award for lifetime achievement in songwriting,and in 2014 they honored him as the "cornerstone of Christian music" for his significant influence on the genre. He also has recorded 31 No. 1 Hit songs, fourteen gold albums, and five platinum albums. He has also starred in two movies and published 13 books including This is Your Time, which he worked with Christian author Gary Thomas to write.

Early life

Michael Whitaker Smith was born to Paul and Barbara Smith in Kenova, West Virginia. His father was an oil refinery worker at the Ashland Oil Refinery, in nearby Catlettsburg, Kentucky. His mother was a caterer. He inherited his love of baseball from his father, who had played in the minor leagues. As a child, he developed a love of music through his church. He learned piano at an early age and sang in his church choir. At the age of 10, he had "an intense spiritual experience" that led to his becoming a devout Christian. "I wore this big cross around my neck," he would recall, "It was very real to me." He became involved in Bible study and found a group of older friends who shared his faith.

After his older Christian friends moved away to college, Smith began to struggle with feelings of loneliness and alienation. After graduating from high school, he gravitated toward alcohol and drugs.[8] He attended Marshall University while developing his songwriting skills but dropped out after one semester. He also played with various local bands around Huntington, West Virginia. During that time, his friend Shane Keister, who worked as a session musician in Nashville, encouraged him to move to Nashville, the Country Music capital, and pursue a career in music.

In 1978, Smith moved to Nashville, taking a job as a landscaper to support himself. He played with several local bands in the Nashville club scene. He also developed a problem with substance abuse.

I really started losing touch when I moved to Nashville, around April of '78. I was smokin' marijuana, drinking, doing some other drugs; just being crazy, you know. My mom and dad knew what I was doing. But they never hassled me, they just prayed for me. And I felt convicted by God. Every time I'd wake up I knew: This isn't me. But I couldn't change myself.

Music career

Beginning, MOR and Christian rock era (1981–1989)

In 1981, while he was playing keyboards for Higher Ground,] Smith was signed as a writer to Meadowgreen Music, where he wrote numerous gospel hits penned for artists such as Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither and Amy Grant, to the effect that some of these popular worship songs can now be found in church hymnals. The following year, Smith began touring as a keyboardist for Grant on her Age to Age tour.

He would eventually become Grant's opening act and recorded his first Grammy-nominated solo album The Michael W. Smith Project (which he also produced himself) in 1983 on the Reunion Records label. This album contained the first recording of his hit "Friends", which he co-wrote with his wife Deborah. By the time Smith's second album Michael W. Smith 2 was released in 1984, he was headlining his own tours. In 1986, Smith released The Big Picture, produced by John Potoker.

After the release of his 1988 effort, i 2 (EYE), Smith once again collaborated with Grant for her "Lead Me On World Tour". The following year, Smith recorded his first Christmas album, simply titled Christmas (1989).

Mainstream venture and inspirational pop albums (1990–1999)

In 1990, Smith released Go West Young Man, his first mainstream effort, which included the mainstream crossover hit single "Place in This World". The song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1992, he released Change Your World, which included the No. 1 adult contemporary hit "I Will Be Here for You". In 1993 Smith released his first box set, The Wonder Years and his first greatest hits album, The First Decade (1983–1993). The latter also includes two new songs, "Do You Dream Of Me?" and "Kentucky Rose".

In 1995, Smith released his eighth album I'll Lead You Home, which combines the pop style of his secular albums with a touch of religious feel. Live the Life (1998) and This Is Your Time (1999) follow the same style. In 1998, Smith also released his second Christmas album, Christmastime.

Smith collaborated with Jim Brickman on "Love of My Life", a romantic love song for Brickman's album Destiny in 1999. The song went to chart at No. 9 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks. Also in 1999, he became the first Christian artist to receive the ASCAP "Golden Note" Award for lifetime achievement in songwriting.

Instrumental and live worship albums (2000–2003)

Nearly all of Smith's albums include at least one instrumental track, and in 2000, Smith recorded his first all instrumental album, Freedom. The following year, Smith released his first all-worship music album, Worship, on September 11. This album was followed by a sequel, Worship Again in 2002. Both albums were recorded live in concert. Worship Again also includes a song that Smith wrote called "There She Stands", inspired by the September 11, 2001 attacks. He performed this song live for the 2004 Republican National Convention, saying that President George W. Bush, whom he said is a fan and a family friend, had asked him to write a song about the attacks.

In 2002, Smith released a live concert DVD titled Worship, filmed live in Edmonton, Alberta at YC Alberta. The concert includes songs from both Worship (2001) and Worship Again (2002). It immediately topped the Billboard video charts and went gold in both the U.S. and Canada.

Acting career

In 1994, Smith made his acting debut as Billy Holden in Secret Adventures: Shrug. In 2006, Smith was the lead actor in The Second Chance, a movie directed by Steve Taylor. He also did the score and soundtrack for this movie.

In 2015, Smith starred as Cliff McArdle in the movie adaptation of the best-selling book "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper. The movie is due for release in Fall 2015.

Personal life

Smith is married to Deborah "Debbie" Kay Davis (b. 1958) and has five children: Ryan Smith, Whitney Katherine Smith-Mooring (married to Jack Mooring of the band Leeland), Tyler Michael (keyboard player for the United Tour), Anna Elizabeth, and Emily Allison. He resides in the Nashville suburbs and spends time at the Smith family farm. His son, Ryan Smith, is a filmmaker who directed the film After.

Alderson-Broaddus College awarded Smith the degree Doctorate of Music honoris causa in 1992.

Smith attended Belmont Church in Nashville, Tennessee and is mentored by its long time pastor, Don Finto.[35] Smith is the founding pastor of New River Fellowship in Franklin, Tennessee, where he was the lead pastor from 2006 to 2008. Smith and his wife remain involved members of the church.

Smith supports the Republican Party, and is personal friends with several prominent Republicans, including former President George W. Bush. He endorsed Sam Brownback's brief run for president in 2008.

He was also named one of People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" in 1992.

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