Thursday, February 3, 2011

John Mark Heard

Mark Heard was an enigma in Christian music.  He only had a couple of radio hits, and  few people familiar with modern Christian music have heard of him, yet he has influenced such major christian artists as Rich MullinsBruce Carroll, Bob Bennett, Julie Miller and Ashley Cleveland, to name a few.  He wrote songs that perfectly described mans fallen condition, and the moral decay with which we live, but were also filled with hope, a love for God and a longing to be with Him. Lyrically, he was influenced heavily by evangelical Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer.

Heard was discovered by Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill.  Norman signed him to his label, Solid Rock Records,  and recorded his second solo album "Appalachian Melody," in 1979. (His first, self-titled album was released on Airborn Records in 1975. Norman later re-released this album as "On Turning To Dust" in 1978.)  Those first albums were acoustic/folk rock/country albums that garnered heard a comparison to James Taylor.  He then released the European only album "Fingerprint."
Heard moved to Chris Christian's Home Sweet Home records after Solid Rock folded.  He recorded six albums for Home Sweet Home, each one critically acclaimed, but largely ignored by Christian radio, and by the record buying public. Those albums showed the Heartland rock influence of artists like Tom PettyBruce Springsteen, Steven Forbert, etc. with a little Byrds thrown in for good measure.. In 1987 he signed with What? records and released the album "Tribal Opera" under the pseudonym "iDEoLA," a very different approach for him, as it was entirely electronic in nature with sampled drums, guitars, and other instruments.

In 1990, Heard began work on what would be his final trilogy of albums.  "Dry Bones Dance," released in 1990 was a loud' happy, joyous country-rock album with Mark's trademark lyrics. "Second Hand," released in 1991, was a much quieter, plaintive, folksy album that featured Steve Hindalong of The Choir on drums.  Heard's final album, "Satellite Sky," was a Country/Folk Rock album written entirely on the mandolin.

On July 4, 1992, Mark Heard suffered a Heart Attack on stage at the 1992 Cornerstone Festival.  He finished his set before he went to a nearby hospital. He spent several days there before being released, apparently in good health. He moved to another hospital to complete his recovery. It was there that he suffered a Cardiac Arrest and lapsed into a coma. The Doctor's performed a successful bypass operation, but he never came out of the coma. He died on August 16, 1992.  He was 40 years old.

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