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For nearly a quarter-century, Christian crooner Bob Carlisle worked in relative obscurity. That changed dramatically June 28 when Butterfly Kisses, a recording featuring Carlisle's sentimental song, cowritten with Randy Thomas about his 16-year-old daughter, Brooke Carlisle, reached the number-one spot on Billboard's top-200 album chart. It is the first contemporary Christian release to reach the pop pinnacle.

Carlisle began his singing career in the early 1970s with the Maranatha! Music band Good News. By the mid-1990s he had no recording contract and was singing odes to sensitive male spirituality, such as "When a Grown Man Cries," at Promise Keepers rallies.

The single "Butterfly Kisses" had been a late addition to Shades of Grace, Carlisle's 1996 solo album for the small Diadem label. Initially, the song became a Christian radio hit and won two Dove Awards, including Song of the Year. Then, early this year, the mainstream company Jive purchased Diadem and released the single "Butterfly Kisses" to adult contemporary and top-40 stations.

The album has sold 2 million copies and has spawned a small industry. Word Publishing has released three book spinoffs, and mainstream children's publishing giant Golden Books plans to release three more. Plus, there is talk of a television movie.

Christian albums climbing the Billboard ladder may not be an aberration. Kirk Franklin's gospel album God's Property spent much of June, July, and August in the top 10. Anchored by the get-up-and-dance single "Stomp," the recording rose as high as the third spot on the national charts for one week. "Stomp" has also been featured prominently on MTV.

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In the Magazine

October 6, 1997

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