I was introduced to Rich's music by my parents. We always listened to music in the car - and often that meant mix tapes from my dad's friend in Nashville (of 80's CCM - Amy Grant, First Call, Wayne Watson, Larry Bryant, etc.). I think my parents still have the cassette tape of Rich Mullins' first album. When I look over the track list, I can hear every single track, in all of its 80's glory (and I can see my dad bobbing his head and singing along with "Live Right"). Despite some of the cheese in the arrangements, the power in the songwriting is as strong as ever.
Show me someone who makes a difference -
Show me someone who's brave when he needs to be -
I just need to see -
Someone who cares enough that he would risk his life
For the love of what he's come to believe.
But you say that a man like that wouldn't last in a world like this
Well, I believe that the world won't last
If a man like that don't exist
As the years went by, we wore out almost every album released. I am glad I was able to hear him in concert a few times. One was at Six Flags in St. Louis - on a youth group trip (his opening act was Steven Curtis Chapman who had a fabulous mullet at the time). I remember him singing "Screen Door" with the cup trick!
In the summer of '97 (right before my senior year of high school), Rich and the whole Ragamuffin Band did several concerts at a youth conference I was at (CIY). It wasn't a huge conference, and the whole group of musicians was on the campus for a few days. One afternoon, I saw Rich walking across the campus by himself. I worked up enough confidence to go over to him and say, "thanks for your music." (I was a shy kid.) He was really gracious. I've always been glad that I got to see him that summer - to hear his music and to be able to simply thank him.
Random tidbit: Rich Mullins is also how I got into Caedmon's Call. Their cover of "Hope to Carry On" is how I started listening to them.
I vividly remember coming home on September 19th, 1997. I walked in the door, and my dad was watching the evening news. He told me that Rich Mullins had died - and I didn't believe it. The car accident happened on an interstate only an hour or so north of us. It was a horrible accident, and I couldn't believe that he wouldn't be writing or recording anymore. So sad.
During college, Rich continued to be one of my most-listened to artists. His Jesus Record (demos and covers) was released one year after his death, which happened to be when I headed off to college. I listened to that CD a lot. My freshman year roommates called one of the songs "the Jesus-loves-the-whores song." To be fair, the lyric is "the whores all seem to love Him," but I never corrected them. I think it's safe to say Jesus does love the whores.
It's hard for me to pick favorites - but Winds of Heaven...Stuff of Earth and Never Picture Perfect would probably be some of the most solid albums for me. Everyone always says Liturgy, Legacy is the best - and that one is really amazing too. Those other ones just don't get enough love. "Somewhere" (which is what I named my blog from) is what I've always labeled as my favorite song of all time. The aforementioned Jesus record has amazing songwriting too. If you don't know "Hard to Get" - you should.
Rich Mullins was no saint. Nor was he the most amazing musician that ever lived. But I am SO grateful that he wrote music that brought out both the hard and the beautiful parts of life & faith.