by Michael P Coleman
There’s a time-worn phrase that speaks of walking the walk, and not just talking the talk. The latter comes easily for most of us, but the former requires a bit…more.
Occasionally, one runs across a soul who accomplishes both exceptionally well. One such soul is Contemporary Christian music legend Sandi Patty.
She’s talked the talk — or more accurately, sung the song — for decades, having burst onto the international stage in 1986 with a stirring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner that captivated a nation. If you’ve not heard Patti’s version, let’s put it this way: hers and Whitney Houston’s are the only two versions I need to hear. Ever.
“She threw down on that one,” Patti told me by phone, as she juggled phone appointments with a manicure during what was supposed to be one of her off days. “That was awesome. Whitney’s version is absolutely one of my favorites.”
As Patty “threw down on that one” a handful of years before Houston did, that’s a modest statement, and it’s emblematic of the modesty that Patti displayed during our entire chat. I found her warm, friendly, sincere, and transparent — much like the music she’s shared with the world for over three decades.
After revisiting some of her classics and listening to her new album, Forever Grateful, I was struck not just by the power and range of her voice, but by the sincerity of her delivery. The woman knows how to deliver a lyric, and when the lyric speaks of an answer to society’s problems, you’re compelled to listen. If you’re not a believer, listening to Patty’s music may not convince you that Jesus is Lord and Savior, but you will know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Patty believes He is.
Sandi Patty is the most heralded female Contemporary Christian artist in history, amassing dozens of Dove Awards and being named the Gospel Music Association’s Best Female Vocalist for 10 consecutive years.
She helped introduce R & B songbird Deniece Williams to the Contemporary Christian audience with their Grammy Award-winning duet “They Say,” a collaboration that is second only to Patty’s first duet with Larnelle Harris, “More Than Wonderful.” Her soaring soprano is unmatched, and for the better part of twenty years, she unabashedly shared her faith with the world before a series of personal trials sidelined her career and ministry for a handful of years.
Patty reemerged in the mid-90s, bruised but not broken, covered by grace, and more committed than ever to tell everyone who would hear about her God, whom she describes as a “god of second chances.” She bravely documented her journey through the valley in a riveting 2005 memoir, Broken On The Back Row, which gives readers a road map to redemption. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read.
Now, at 60, Patty has decided to retire, but not before hitting the road one final time. Her Forever Grateful Tour rolls into Modesto this Friday and Sacramento on Saturday. Patty says she’s going out with a bang.
“We have been having an absolute blast,” Patty said of the current tour. “My team has gone into the video archives of my life, and I’m telling you, it’s quite a journey through hairstyles if nothing else! Honestly! Some of my family are singing with me. And I’m with a group called Veritas — it’s kinda like having five Josh Grobans in the same group.”
“I’m very excited about the show we’ve put together and being able to do the final tour like this one.”
Sandi Patti, retiring? Say it ain’t so! I asked the legend whether her next chapter might at least include recording.
“Well, I’m retiring from being so busy on the road, which probably means retiring from recording.” Patty said. “I think that some of my kids — and some of the generation coming behind me — are AMAZING singers, and I’m hoping to help them by just being on the sidelines, cheering for them.”
With her rich catalog of Contemporary Christian standards, I asked Patty which one she’d most like to be remembered for. Coincidentally — or maybe not — it’s the song I’d been playing as I prepared for our chat.
“I’d probably have to say ‘In The Name Of The Lord’. Just because sometimes when you don’t know what to do, you know there’s strength, power, and hope in the name of the Lord. That has been something that has been very important during many seasons of my life. I’ve sung that song even to myself, when no one’s listening.”
Thousands will be listening to Patty later this week, as her tour rolls into Modesto on Friday and Sacramento on Saturday. I’ve not yet had the chance to experience that majestic voice of hers live, and I’m thankful to be able to correct that this weekend. If you’d like a little inspiration, and you can handle hearing Patty’s unvarnished, glorious truth, see Sandi Patty this weekend. I’m told Modesto’s just about sold out, but at press time there were a few seats left in Sacramento.
Information on Sandi Patty’s Forever Grateful Tour can be found at sandipatty.com.