2010 - Bill and Gloria Gaither
"The Gaithers are to Christian music what the Beatles are to pop music." That's how Bill and Gloria Gaither were introduced when the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers (ASCAP) named them "Songwriters of the Century."
Unquestionably, Christian music falls into two categories: Before Gaithers (B.G.) and After Gaithers (A.G.).
They wrote songs you've probably sung
At a time when the music of the church leaned toward traditional gospel songs and lyrics composed in religious language, the Gaithers brought to the concert stage an upbeat, contemporary sound featuring real-life lyrics that grew out of their everyday lives as full-time school teachers.
In the years since, Bill and Gloria have partnered to write more than 700 songs, many of which are sung in churches today, including "Because He Lives," "Let's Just Praise the Lord," "He Touched Me," "Something Beautiful" and "The King is Coming," to name just a few of the favorites.
Sharing their stage with countless up-and-coming artists, the Gaithers mentored performers such as Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Sandi Patty, influencing entire generations of artists.
Bill and Gloria have performed in concert around the world, shooting music videos in Ireland, England, South Africa and Israel. Ken Abraham, who co-authored Bill's memoir, "It's More Than the Music," recalls hiking through Jamaica with his brothers and coming upon a makeshift church building where the congregation was singing "He Touched Me."
'Alleluia!' plays worldwide
In the 1970s, the Gaithers recorded a musical, "Alleluia! A Praise Gathering for Believers," which was written with the idea that local congregations and choirs could do their own productions. In fact, it was performed in churches and communities around the world including countries such as Romania and China. "Alleluia!" became the first certified gold record in Christian music and virtually transformed the world of church music.
Releasing hundreds of recordings, the Gaithers have won eight Grammy Awards and two dozen Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association, earning GMA's "Songwriter of the Year" recognition eight times.
The album that moved an exiled president
In his book "It's More Than the Music," Bill Gaither tells the story of the professor who sent a copy of the Gaither album "Alleluia!" to Richard Nixon after his resignation from office during the Watergate investigation. According to the professor, he later received a call from Nixon's personal secretary informing him that the former president wanted to speak with him. When Nixon took the phone, he told the professor that during his entire political career he had never been so moved by a gift and that, in fact, he had worn out track number eight. Track number eight on the "Alleluia!" album is the song, "Because He Lives."
Partners but singular personalities
Bill was once cited by Entrepreneur magazine for his successful business conglomerate, which includes a record company, concert booking, television production, copyright management, a recording studio, a telemarketing department and the couple's retail store, Gaither Family Resources. Several years ago, out of his desire to bring hopeful music to a heartbroken world, Bill formed the Gaither Vocal Band, a group that has released nearly 30 recordings, including a DVD in 2009 that went to No. 1 on Billboard's music video chart.
A compulsive journal keeper and a true bibliophile, Gloria has written a shelf of books - more than 40 at last count. A student of literature, she has contributed papers and reviews, in various academic settings, on the work of American author John Steinbeck. An advocate of Christian higher education, she has served on the board of directors for both the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and the United Christian College Fund. She has received honorary doctorates from six universities, including one from IWU in 2002.
Legends who stayed local
Although the Gaithers have traversed the globe for four decades singing the gospel, they always return home to Alexandria, Indiana, so they can stay involved in town life and the lives of family and friends.
Working just minutes south of the IWU campus, the Gaithers are living proof that, sometimes, world changers live just down the road.
Thank you, Bill and Gloria Gaither, for giving the world a song - well, many, many, many songs!