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Published: Saturday, 10/24/2009

Words and music are all based on the Bible: Christian singer-songwriter has also written 19 books

Michael Card will be in concert Sunday night at Bedford High School. Michael Card will be in concert Sunday night at Bedford High School.

Michael Card has written 19 songs that topped the Christian music charts, including evergreens such as “El Shaddai” and “Emmanuel.”

Although he's released 23 albums and sold more than 4 million albums in his 26-year career, most of those hits and album sales came early on.

The Nashville singer-songwriter, who will be in concert at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Bedford High School, said he continues to perform “El Shaddai” in concerts, a song that reached the multitudes when Amy Grant recorded it in 1983.

“Of course I play it, I'm an affirmation junkie,” Mr. Card said with a laugh. “But the sad thing is, fewer and fewer people sing along with it.”

Mr. Card, 52, doesn't get the radio play or record-label support he used to when he helped pave the way for contemporary Christian music in the 1980s.

But he has adapted to the changes in the music industry.

“There's not really a place for me in radio anymore, and some radio play would definitely help me,” Mr. Card said from Nashville. “Some of the smaller mom-and-pop stations still play me but the chain stations don't support me as much as they used to.”

The rise of independent artists who succeed without label or radio backing is a positive trend, he said, offering consumers more options than ever.

“I think it's a really good thing for music fans because the big labels have manipulated the market too much,” he said.

Mr. Card branched out from his initial career as a musician to become a successful author, writing or co-writing 19 books.

His books include Parable of Joy: Reflections on the Wisdom of the Book of John and A Better Freedom, a study of New Testament references to slavery.

“The Gospel does not redeem the institution of slavery, it redeems the cross and the resurrection. It introduces a new kind of slavery,” Mr. Card said.

His deep interest in theology led him to study for a PhD at Whitefield Seminary. But after finishing his doctoral dissertation on Scottish Bible scholar F.F. Bruce, Mr. Card decided at the last minute that he had made a mistake.

“Just as I was about to hand in my paper to get my doctorate, I realized I had done it for all the wrong reasons. … I felt it was more a prideful thing and it wasn't really good for me,” he said.

He never did turn his dissertation in. But his music career soon blossomed and “I didn't really need a PhD,” he added.

Mr. Card has received several honorary doctorates, including one in religious education from Philadelphia Biblical College last May.

“It's a great honor, but I don't let anyone call me ‘Dr. Card' — except my kids. I make my kids call me ‘doctor,'” he said, chuckling.

Mr. Card's songs and albums are usually based on the Bible, including his most recent releases on the life of St. Peter and the lamentations of the Old Testament.

“I'm working on an album on Luke and hopefully will do one Gospel a year for the next four years,” he said.

Mr. Card said that growing up in Nashville, he was surrounded by extraordinarily talented musicians. He started playing guitar when he was 5 or 6, and also plays piano, banjo, mandolin, Irish harp, and various other stringed instruments.

In his concert tomorrow, Mr. Card said he will be accompanied by a cellist and the songs will lead listeners through the Bible.

“The format of the concert is we start with Genesis and go through Revelation,” he said.

Michael Card will be in concert at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Bedford High School Auditorium, 8285 Jackman Rd., Temperance. Tickets are $10. Information: 734-847-8275 or 419-356-4016. More information is available online at michaelcard.com.

— David Yonke

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