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Carman, Christian music icon and Gospel Music Hall of Famer, dies at 65

Photo courtesy of Conduit Media Solutions

LAS VEGAS (RNS) — Carman Dominic Licciardello, a Christian music legend known simply by his first name, has died.

He was 65.

Carman had been hospitalized in Las Vegas for complications after surgery to repair a hiatal hernia, according to a press release posted on the musician’s Facebook page.

“When Carman resumed touring again a few years ago, he was concerned that no one would care that he was back. He was wrong,” his manager, Matt Felts, said in a statement. “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.”

He was born Jan. 19, 1956, in Trenton, N.J., and first began performing as a drummer in his mother’s band as a teenager. Carman came to fame in the mid-1980s during the heyday of contemporary Christian music with the release of his hit song, “The Champion.” His 1993 record, “Addicted to Jesus,” was named Christian album of the year. His other hits included songs such as “Satan, Bite the Dust,” “Revival in the Land” and “A Witch’s Invitation.”

Carman also put on elaborate stage shows – often for free, or just the price of a donation – that attracted thousands of fans.

“Legions of screaming teenage fans would call him the ‘Italian Stallion’ as Carman developed a niche for high-drama emotional ballads that featured demons, witches, spiritual warfare and always, a victorious Christ,” Religion News Service reported in a 2013 profile.

Carman sold millions of records, but by the early 2000s his music career had stalled. Fans rallied to his aid, though, after the musician announced he had cancer in 2013; they donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a new music project.

“I thought I could see this coming to a close,” the then-57-year-old Carman told RNS in 2013. “I wasn’t really doing anything. I’ve had hardly any requests for concerts. I wasn’t recording. I wasn’t productive. The things I needed to do best, I wasn’t doing. I figured my time was up.”

Carman was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2018. He had been planning to start on a 60-city tour later this year, according to his Facebook page.

He credited his fans with helping spark his musical revival and his recovery from cancer.

“If God speaks to the people and the people put up the money, and they say ‘Go make music and minister,’ to me that means I’m going to be alive in a year,” Carman said in 2013. “These treatments I’m going through are going to work. Everything’s going to work and I’m going to overcome this thing and reach a new generation.”

From Religion News Service via The Associated Press. May not be republished.