Michael W. Smith

Michael W. Smith Artistfacts

  • October 7, 1957
  • Michael W. Smith is a Christian singer-songwriter who started his music career in the 1980s as a keyboardist for the CCM band Higher Ground. After penning some hit gospel tunes for other artists - including his breakthrough "How Majestic Is Your Name" for Sandi Patty - he kicked off his solo career with his self-produced debut album, The Michael W. Smith Project (1983).
  • When Smith first moved from his native West Virginia to Nashville, he worked as a landscaper to pay the bills.
  • His middle initial stands for Whitaker, a name that's common in Smith's family. It was also his father's middle name and is the first name of one of the singer's grandsons (see "Whitaker's Wonder").
  • Smith veered off the spiritual path when he first moved to Nashville and developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Landing the gig with Higher Ground helped him clean up his act and recommit to his faith.
  • His first hit as a singer was "Great Is the Lord," a synth-pop modern hymn from his debut album that peaked at #1 on the Christian radio chart. Like many of the tracks on the album, it was co-written by his wife, Debbie.
  • Smith wrote Amy Grant's first mainstream pop hit, "Find A Way" (1985). In an attempt to achieve the same crossover success, he recorded the rock-oriented album The Big Picture to be released to the mainstream - but the deal with A&M fell through and it was only distributed to the Christian market. In 1991, he finally broke into the Hot 100 with the Top 10 hit "Place In This World" from the million-selling album Go West Young Man.
  • In 1992, he was voted as one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People."
  • Like his contemporaries who found crossover success, Smith received criticism from some outspoken members of the Christian community for peddling so-called "watered-down Christianity" to the masses. His 1997 single "Love Me Good," a minor hit on the Hot 100, was even disqualified from consideration for the GMA Dove Awards because it wasn't Christian enough.
  • Smith has a collaborator in common with Madonna. Patrick Leonard, who was a songwriter and producer on many of Madonna's albums of the '80s and '90s, also produced Smith's 1995 album, I'll Lead You Home, which won the Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album in 1996.
  • Smith was close friends with George H.W. Bush and performed his seminal tune "Friends" at the late US president's state funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on December 5, 2018. He also befriended George W. Bush, writing the 9/11-inspired tune "There She Stands" at his request and performing it at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
  • Smith launched his own record label, Rocketown Records, in 1996. Named for a track on The Big Picture, the company's roster includes Chris Rice, Ginny Owens, Shaun Groves, and Geoff Moore, among others. Smith added his own name to the list in 2018 when he issued his pop album A Million Lights.

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