Friday, April 27, 2012

Tom Howard

Often heard but seldom recognized, Tom Howard was an important figure in the development of modern Christian music.  He was one of Larry Norman's brilliant Solid Rock artists in the late 1970's, along with Randy Stonehill and Mark Heard, and after the dissolution of Solid Rock, he helped Daniel Amos (another Solid Rock act) form the Alarma! record label.

View From The Bridge

Although he recorded three excellent vocal pop albums, Howard is more known for the instrumental albums he has released since the mid 80's, and as a session musician, composer and conducter, appearing on albums by artists like The Choir, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Jars of Clay, Rich Mullins' Ragamuffin Band and many more.  You would have a hard time finding a Christian album recorded in the 80's or 90's that Howard didn't work on, in some way.
Danger In Loving You

Although in one of his final interviews he joked that no one would miss his singing, he had a pleasant, soothing voice, reminiscent of Supertramps' Roger Hodgson.  Musically, his first two albums, "View From The Bridge" (1977) and "Danger In Loving You" (1981), were firmly rooted in 70's pop, but he could throw a few curve balls, too. "Danger In Loving You" opens with "Horizen," a progressive rock instrumental that would have fit on the first Emerson, Lake and Palmer album.  The title track was another prog rock masterpiece.  ("Horizon" was re-recorded in 1985 as a solo piano piece titled "Horizon Storm.)

In 1985, Tom released a final vocal album with fellow CCM pioneer, Bill Batstone titled "One by One,' which yielded a hit in the tune "When The Curtain Falls," and thereafter concentrated on his instrumental albums and his work for other artists.  Of his instrumental works, the Windham Hill-like "The Harvest"(1985,) and "Solo Piano"(1987) are some of the most listened to albums in my collection.

Tom in 2008.

In January 2010, when Tom and his wife Dori were hiking at a State park in Nashville, Tennessee, he suffered a fatal heart attack.  He was 59 years old.  

Few "celebrity" deaths affect me on a personal level, although I mourn for anyone who passes on.  Tom's death, like Dana Key, Mark Heard, Rich Mullins, Dan Peek and Larry Norman, was like losing a friend, who I never really met.  R.I.P. Tom.

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