A painfully honest story of human weakness and God's unending forgiveness.
Thirteen years ago, amidst scandal, sin, and shattered lives, Michael English fell from the pinnacle of the Christian music world. In 1994, newspapers around the world blared the headline, "Gospel Singer Named Artist of the Year Turns in His Awards After Confirming He Had an Affair with a Fellow Married Singer." From 1994 to 2002 Michael English's life went from bad to worse. Public shame, divorce, broken relationships, drug addiction, even homelessness. But in 2002, God reached out and rescued Michael from himself. Today Michael is whole again, and in this book he tells his story of redemption.
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About the Author
Michael English, whose singing career began in Southern Gospel, performed with the Goodmans, the Gaither Trio, and the Gaither Vocal Band before going solo in 1991. As a solo artist, Michael won multiple Dove Awards, among them Best New Artist and Best Male Vocalist.
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the prodigal comes homeMy Story of Failure and God's Story of Redemption
By Michael English Lynn Vincent
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Michael English
All right reserved.
Chapter OneInside Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, the band First Call hit their last note, darkness dropped over the massive sanctuary like a blanket, and thirty-five hundred people erupted into cheers. Working by penlight, an expert crew swept onstage and shuffled equipment while whistles and shouts echoed in the huge hall. Waiting backstage with my band, I could hear calls from the crowd-"Michael! ... Michael!"-then scattered whistling and the hushed restlessness of a crowd waiting for a headline act.
It was the spring of 1994, the opening show on tour for my second solo album, Hope. By then I'd had three number one hits on the Christian adult contemporary charts. I had won five Dove Awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year for two years running. I'd been with the Grammy-winning Gaither Vocal Band for nine years. I'd sung with the Young Messiah tour, the most successful Christian musical production of all time. We'd even sung at the White House for Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The Hope tour was already sold out for months down the line. Fan response was so enthusiastic that when we pulled up to a venue inthe tour bus, I had to keep my head down to get into the building without being seen. Otherwise, a crowd would come running.
Also, I was making a lot of money.
As a music style, Christian contemporary music, also known as CCM, was entering its third decade as a multimillion-dollar industry. My manager, Norman Miller, was one of its pioneers, handling singers like Twila Paris and, later, Avalon and Casting Crowns. He had put together an incredible show: I was touring with my good friend Mark Lowry, the well-known funny man of the Gaither Vocal Band. A newer group, Angelo and Veronica, was the opening act. And the group First Call had replaced Mel Tunney with a new singer, Marabeth Jordan; Hope was their comeback tour.
Norman is right when he says today that the Hope tour was "magical." My management team, including my record label, Warner Alliance, had decided to pull out all the stops, making the show a true production. On tour for my first album, Michael English, I'd sung with performance tracks. This time we held auditions for a band and put together an amazing group of musicians, including the accomplished drummer David Huff. David also served as musical director for the tour and had programmed a spectacular light show with lasers and blazing spots synchronized with the musical buildup that preceded my entrance.
I remember that night in Detroit like it happened an hour ago. I had been singing in front of folks for most of my life, but when I stepped out on that stage, it was beyond anything someone like me, an ignorant fool from Wallace, North Carolina, ever could have dreamed.
The moment the stage was set, technicians triggered the audio intro and a low hum broke into the darkness. The crowd began to stir again, whistling, clapping, shouting out. Still no lights.
The low hum rose, then broke into a musical "punch"-keyboards-at the same split second that multicolored lasers blazed through the sanctuary. Then darkness again. The crowd went crazy. Another punch-brass-and violet lasers raked the stage. Darkness. A guitar riff flashed blue. Snares lit the stage red. Between the laser flashes, the stage was still black and the crowd noise began building, building.
The band and I had rehearsed over and over getting into position onstage in total darkness. Stepping carefully over power cords taped to the floor, the band, along with First Call, who was singing backup, quietly lined up in the wings. I stood at the back of the line, off stage left. For five minutes, we hid there as lasers and music popped over the crowd. Suddenly the sanctuary went completely black, but the music swelled, just strings. The band had only twenty seconds to slip quietly into place. They stood onstage still as statues, heads down, and then: flash! Blazing white spots hit each member of the band. The crowd roared, then the sanctuary went black.
Techs had placed a huge white spotlight at the back of the stage. I had ten seconds to get into position. A stagehand led me out. I stood center stage, back to the crowd. A building rumble of percussions, keys, and bass filled the hall. A tech flipped a switch, and the spotlight hit me, wrapped around me, and beamed toward the crowd. The effect was silhouette, with rays shooting out from my body.
The crowd screamed. And kept screaming. The sound was so loud, like it wasn't even real. So loud it approached distortion. I had only heard a crowd that loud once before, at a rock concert, when I went to see the group Chicago. Yet this screaming was for me. I was thinking, Oh man, I have made it! This is everything I dreamed of and more. It was overwhelming. I mean that: Over. Whelming.
We broke into "Save Me," a driving pop song:
The sky is full of stars tonight. But I need more than a fleeting light To take me through the night.
It's hard to describe the crowd's reaction without sounding like my ego is huge. (It was getting huge back then, but God took care of that.) This wasn't like a Christian concert; I'd been to and performed at literally hundreds of those, maybe thousands. This was like a rock concert. It was like I could do no wrong. Even if I hit a bad note, the people were still screaming. Just going crazy. The crowd was, as they say in Southern gospel, "throwing babies out of the balconies."
I ended the first set with "Message of Mercy," a bluesy, shuffle-beat hit. Then I did a "Cher"-changed clothes-and came back with "Always for You," a pop number with a Sting vibe. We ended the second set with my number one hit "In Christ Alone," then came back for an encore with "A Place Called Hope."
After the show, I had to just ... leave.
Before the Hope tour, a security team would normally take me out where the fans were so that I could sign CDs and photos and T-shirts. But now there was no way to accommodate the crowds without upsetting people. There wasn't enough product to sell or enough time to sell it, then sign it. And I couldn't really go out where the crowds were anyway, because it had gotten to the point that the sixteen- to twenty-two-year-olds were, as Norman tells it today, "going nuts." The girls would do that "Omigosh-there-he-is-I-can't breathe!" thing.
It's hard to explain the mixed feelings that kind of response created in me. One part of me honestly felt like a superstar. But another part of me couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. The truth was, I was sure that at any second somebody was going to figure it out: I wasn't talented. This dream-life was all going to come crashing down because people would figure out that I was a lazy and stupid fake, that I couldn't do anything-including sing-as well as I thought I could.
That was the message I got growing up, and it was a message that stayed with me. No matter how successful and famous I became, inside I was the little boy who still carried like an anchor the message I'd heard growing up: "He'll never amount to anything."
Excerpted from the prodigal comes home by Michael English Lynn Vincent Copyright © 2007 by Michael English. Excerpted by permission.
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