I first became truly aware of the name Ralph Carmichael in the 1980s after I’d purchased a fake book of religious songs. I spent a lot of time playing many of those songs on the piano and studied their titles, dates, lyrics, composers’ names, etc., especially those of the songs I liked most in the book. I had also acquired a Methodist-type hymnal, among two other hymnals, that included some of Carmichael’s songs as well.
Composers like Carmichael and Kurt Kaiser were the ‘new’ people with new sounds, the Message in updated words, etc. The music and lyrics of these guys were exciting.
Carmichael was born in Quincy, Illinois, then moved with his family to North Dakota where they lived from eight to ten years. That’s because his father was a preacher. His mother taught Sunday school and Bible studies. Near the end of the 1930s, the Carmichaels moved to southern California, where Carmichael entered college. He loved the big/dance band sounds and began experimenting with similar musical styles in order to attract listeners to the Gospel messages. His TV program ‘The Campus Christian Hour’ won an Emmy award in 1950.
Carmichael’s big break came as a result of working much with Nat King Cole under the auspices of Capitol Records up till the singer’s demise of lung cancer in 1965.
Carmichael arranged and/or conducted orchestras for some of the biggest names in pop music. In the 1960s and 70s he composed music specifically for young people.
Today Carmichael is recognized as the father of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). He was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1985 and into other organizations later on. Throughout his career Carmichael wrote music cues for popular TV shows including I Love Lucy and Bonanza. I suspect Lucille Ball got the idea for the last name of the character Lucy Carmichael from Ralph Carmichael, who was probably working for her at the time.
Some of my favorite Carmichael songs include ‘The Savior Is Waiting’ and ‘He’s Everything To Me’ (In the Stars His Handiwork I See). At one time he became friends and worked with Kurt Kaiser. Kaiser wrote one of the most beautiful contemporary Christian songs in existence, in my opinion, called ‘Pass It On’. Carmichael also composed, arranged and/or conducted a lot of secular music. Almost all the tunes are quite familiar to the public so I won’t name any here. Mr. Carmichael has a least one grown offspring—a daughter.
For photos of Carmichael see Google Images. Carmichael has an out-of-print autobiography titled He’s Everything to Me published by Word Books in 1986. Thanks for reading.