Time to jump into the DeLorean with Marty McFly and head back to the 80's.
If you were to ask a CCM fan in the late 80's who is the best Christian rock band in the world, there would only be two contenders. The winner would probably be the band Petra, who we featured a few Friday's ago, but the case could be made for this week's featured group, WHITE HEART.
White Heart was an American contemporary Christian music pop-rock band which formed in 1982. White Heart's discography includes thirteen albums, the most recent of which was released in 1997. For a full-tilt rock band the group's origins hardly exude street cred. In the early 1980s, Bill Gaither (yes, that Bill Gaither) - massively popular songwriter exponent of inspirational and Gospel music was playing to packed auditoriums leading his Bill Gaither Trio. Among the Trio's backing band were Steve Green (who sang backup vocals, also fronted the Gaither Vocal Band, and who we will probably discuss more at a future time), Billy Smiley (who played guitar and trumpet) and Mark Gersmehl (keyboards and trombone).
Frustrated by their role as anonymous sidemen they formed a band with Dann and David Huff drawing inspiration from groups at that time like Toto, Boz Scaggs, Journey, and Steely Dan. They sent a demo to Word Records and by 1983 had had their first rock gospel album released White Heart.
The story of the White Heart's move from church hall to football stadium gigs was certainly not a seamless progression. The band faltered and hiccupped through numerous personnel changes (including four different lead singers), moved through four different record companies and went through a crisis in 1985 which was the rock gospel equivalent of the Bakker and Swaggart scandals. Yet the resilience of their founding members Billy Smiley and Mark Gersmehl and the single unswerving vision to "take the gospel to the kids" (in the words of Gersmehl) saw White Heart not only emerge as rock gospel survivors but grow as men of God while their full-throttle guitar rock continued to find larger and larger audiences.
With hits too numerous to list, like "We Are His Hands", "Sing Your Freedom", "Let Kingdom Come", "Bye Bye Babylon", "Powerhouse", "The River Will Flow", "Independence Day", "Vital Signs", and many, many more great songs. White Heart was a favorite band of mine in the late 80's and I had a hard time picking which song to share, but here is "Desert Rose"...
In the words of Mark Gersmehl talking about White Heart:
What we do want people to think when they hear the name. Do we want it to be a great band, or great musicians? And he answer is no, we hope that's the basis for it, but it's that we hope to make a difference with people.
That is big idea for me, because there are so many Christian kids out there that have so little self value. And a lot of churches and denominations will teach that God loves you, but you're really nothing. And I really don't believe that. I believe God made all of us in his image, and that's a beautiful thing. We really want to tell Christian kids that God has made that difference in your life and so you make a difference in other peoples' lives. That's really the summation of what 'Power House' says, and it's what we are really about.
Although White Heart is considered one of the premier bands to ever play contemporary Christian music, and despite the many No. 1 hits and albums, they never won a Dove Award. White Heart was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame on November 6, 2010.