They called him Mr. Gospel Music. But he was much more than that. James
Blackwood passed away on February 3 of this year. With the passing of
the last of the original Blackwood Brothers Quartet, it would be easy
to consider this the end of an era. Music has changed since James and
the Blackwoods were trailblazers in music ministry.
The first Christian record I ever bought was a Blackwood Brothers album.
As I grew up there was little I wanted more than to be like the Blackwoods.
That inspiration led me to sing in two traveling quartets when I attended
Bethany College. It also made me grateful for the opportunity to get
to know James Blackwood in recent years.
James won countless awards during his lifetime, including nine Grammys
and seven Doves. But, according to the biography his family prepared
for his funeral, his "most coveted award" came when he received
the General Superintendents Medal of Honor at the 2001 General
Council of the Assemblies of God in Kansas City, Mo. I was privileged
to congratulate him right after he left the platform.
James was disturbed at some of the trends in contemporary Christian
music. It was important to him that Christian music remain pure and
true to the gospel that it remain ministry. He told me that his
measure of gospel music was if it clearly glorified God. If it didnt,
its not really Christian music and should not be represented as
such. I find it hard to disagree with that.
He passed this outlook on to many, including his oldest son, Jimmy.
When I went through a lengthy illness more than a decade ago, it was
Jimmys music that I played over and over to lift my spirits and
reinforce that God was still in control. Talent can produce good music,
but only anointing can produce music that is ministry. This is the Blackwood
James was a man of God, but he didnt live his life without regrets.
He told me he never could understand the reason God allowed the plane
crash in 1954 that took the lives of two of the quartet members
his nephew R.W. Blackwood and bass singer Bill Lyles. "When I get
to heaven I want to find out the purpose of the plane crash," he
told me. "There are some things we just dont understand."
By now he has had a sweet, long-awaited reunion.
I hope that the passing of James Blackwood is not the end of an era.
I pray that todays singers and musicians will take their cue from
him and make music that doesnt just sell, but touches lives for
Goodbye, James. Well meet you in the morning.