Gospel Music Hall of Famer Bill Gaither has written more than 600 songs, recorded more than 40 albums, won countless awards, including being named the ASCAP Christian Songwriter of the Century along with his wife, Gloria and made possible the first gold-selling inspiration album. However, this former English teacher has never forgotten why he does what he does. I was able to talk with him on the telephone shortly after Thanksgiving and I came away with a much greater understanding of the man that many call "a living legend".
Kim - Hi Mr. Gaither. Did you have a good Thanksgiving holiday?
Bill Gaither - Pretty good. Good times.
Kim - I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today. I have to say that I pleased, excited and kind of surprised when your office told me that you were interested in doing an interview with me. This is a nice treat for me.
Bill Gaither - Great! Where are you from?
Kim - I'm in Columbus, GA.
Bill Gaither - I'm very well aquainted with Columbus because of Jake Hess.
Kim - Yes sir. I have followed your career for some time now. You do all that you do for our Lord and Savior and you never try to couch that fact in ambiguous lyrics or comments. Will you tell me about the day that you gave your life to Christ?
Bill Gaither - Yes. I was 19 years old. I was Ohio and it was after a concert that we gave that afternoon and I wasn't happy with the direction that my life was going in. I was behind a building - it was a 4H park - I don't know if I would recognize it now or not. It was behind the auditorium that we had sung in that afternoon.
Kim - I read that as a child, you grew up wanting to make music and how when you would go out to the barn, you'd listen to the radio. What song or event made you decide to go into music?
Bill Gaither - I don't think it was any one event. I grew up listening to the quartets and I loved that so much that I wanted to see if I could make music and make it happen. It was just a series of events ... me going to concerts and saying "I think I can do that".
Kim - You do it quite well!
Bill Gaither - Well I hope so.
Kim - I know that you play piano and guitar. Do you play any other instruments?
Bill Gaither - No - just the piano. I don't even play the guitar anymore. I play the piano a little bit, but not much and I sing some. Most of my life is involved in producing other people right now.
Kim - You've written over 600 songs. Some, like "Because He Lives" and "He Touched Me" are literally being sung all over the world. What was the very first song that you and Gloria ever wrote?
Bill Gaither - A song called "I've Been to Calvary" - but I wrote that by myself before I ever met Gloria.
Kim - Which song or songs that you've written just move you to the point of almost being on your face every time you hear them?
Bill Gaither - Well, you know, when you write something you feel that it's a gift from God and so you're pretty much in awe about anything that you write. I am always amazed that the Lord still trusts us with stuff, even at this stage of my life, to still be able to write. They're all just gifts from God and you find yourself extremely grateful that they happened. You know?
Kim - You've worked with greats like Vestal Goodman, Jake Hess, Sandi Patty, Carman, Michael English and so many others that I can't name them all. Do you have any instances that you will share of pure inspiration that came from the people that you've worked with?
Bill Gaither - The people that you mentioned, people like Jake and Vestal, they were just a pure delight to be around - period. From the very beginning, when we first started working together 15 years ago, they already had major careers in their lives. We came together with the Homecoming tapings and that was what I called a God thing. The Lord was just in the room and it was very special. I had no idea that it was going to go to the level that it did. I did know at the time that it was going to be special and good and those were some life-changing experiences.
Kim - I recently read a wonderful definition of evangelism that said, "MINISTRY EVANGELISM is building relational bridges through ministry over which Christians intentionally share the gospel of Jesus Christ." Would you agree that your music, your shows and your videos are a form of evangelism?
Bill Gaither - I hope they are. We've had a lot of affirming mail from people that have said that we've been the bridge from them to Christ. We get a lot from women who say that they couldn't get their husbands interested in anything spiritual until he started watching the videos.