Trailblazing Christian music artist Carman Licciardello, known to fans simply as Carman, has died. An update on his Facebook page Tuesday evening says he passed away at a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital after fighting a series of complications resulting from surgery to repair a hiatal hernia.
Carman, a GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame member, had turned 65 while in the hospital on Jan. 19. He had undergone hernia surgery which had resulted in a sudden, life-threatening crisis, including internal bleeding, organ failure and then pneumonia. He was diagnosed with incurable multiple myeloma cancer in 2013 but experienced several years of recovery. Then he reported last year that the cancer had returned but he wouldn’t stop fighting and he planned to continue touring.
Last week, Carman’s team reported on his Facebook page, “Due to his long fight with cancer and the effect that has on the body, his bounce back from this has been slower than he would like. He appreciates all of the care and prayers you have sent his way.”
In announcing Carman’s death on Feb. 16, his manager Matt Felts said, “This world has lost a light in the darkness but today Carman saw firsthand the fruit of his labors.”
Carman wasn’t just an iconic Christian musician, he was also an inspired evangelist who led countless tens of thousands of souls to Christ throughout his decades-long ministry.
Two-time GRAMMY winner and Christian music artist Jason Crabb said, “There will never be another Carman. His was the very first CCM concert I ever attended. I’ll never forget going to Roberts Municipal Stadium in Evansville, IN with my youth group – I think every youth group went to see him. He was a trendsetter and a trailblazer, who had a vision to impact his audience with groundbreaking music and storytelling through powerful, cinematic videos all with one purpose: to point people to Jesus. I know there are millions today who accepted Christ at one of his concerts. As kids, I remember me and my friends acting out his song, “The Champion.” He made it cool to be a Christian. Never in a million years would I think that 25 years later I would get to know this man and call him a friend. Carman, we will miss you, but I know we will see you again.”
HIS LIFE AND MINISTRY
Carman Domenic Licciardello has experienced the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. Born in New Jersey, he grew up on the mean streets of Trenton in the 60’s and 70’s. His hero was his brother Mario. The toughest most fearless man he said he ever met. Mario became the youngest chief of police in New Jersey history at age 29. Awarded a Combat Cross and highly decorated police officer, he was everything Carman wanted to be. Carman, like many 1st generation Italian Americans learned how to survive and fight through life alongside criminal organizations like the DeCavelcante family. The prototype used for the hit TV mafia show the “Sopranos.” He boxed in the police athletic league and spent 2 years in military school before ultimately finding his niche through music. A self-taught guitarist and drummer he became a Christian at age 20 and embarked on an impossible career of Christian Pop music when there was little to no Christian pop scene at all.
Ultimately through determination and perseverance he became the biggest solo act to ever hit gospel music. He sold over 10 million records, earned 15 gold and platinum CD’s and video, was Christian music’s only stadium act ever with crowds of 50, 70 and 80,000. He collected the most names of any American citizen in history on a petition to put prayer back in public school and lead over a million people to Christ. Written novels, screenplays, books and starred in several movies, and by his side was Mario. Always protecting his little brother and watching his back.
Tragedy struck in May of 2000. Carman was at the peak of his popularity when his brother, mentor, and hero died suddenly of a heart attack at 52. Carman Licciardello spiraled into a world of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. His ministry and career followed the spiral and for years he could not regain his footing in life. Tragedy struck again in 2010 when he was in a serious car accident that took away his remaining zest for life. By 2013 he was diagnosed with incurable cancer and prepared to die. But something happened during that battle for his life. He began to encourage himself by telling himself all the things he wished someone else would say, but wasn’t there to say it. A new found compassion emerged and a desire to help others get through their most difficult times of loss. By God’s grace he found himself again and fought back through a heart attack, pneumonia and cancer to regain his position in life and create a new future.
Let this man, whose compassion and understanding of tragedy and triumph, is like no one else, be your personal life coach. It doesn’t matter how far down you’ve come, Carman Licciardello can help you up, help you out and with the utmost of concern, humor and care, help you create a new future and a new you.