No one ever thought Bill Gaither would be hip. Not in 2004, at least. He wasn't all that hip a generation ago, when he was writing songs for Elvis Presley and racking up Grammy and Dove awards like some '70s version of Steven Curtis Chapman. By now, surely, his day should have passed. He can't rap (at least he doesn't) and he doesn't dance (at least he shouldn't).
Yet here's Bill Gaither, on top again. Since 1998, his name has appeared frequently on Billboard's Top Ten Music Videos chart—not the Christian music chart, but the general Top Ten Music Videos. Christian rockers like Switchfoot and Big Dismal may be making headway among the MTV crowd, but it's Gaither who competes with Missy Elliott, Dave Matthews, and Elton John on the video sales lists. Who saw that coming?
"I sometimes wonder what folks like Elton think when they see that chart," Gaither chuckled as he spoke to Christianity Today at his 29th annual Praise Gathering in Indianapolis. "Bill Gaither? Who's that?"
Who is he? He's a farm boy from Alexandria, Indiana, who has never shaken the dust of that small town from his feet—or from his art. He's a former schoolteacher and basketball aficianado whose devotion to learning and teamwork is still evident in his approach to the music business. He's an entrepreneur who runs several different companies and is regarded as one of the most successful Christian executives in America. He's a curious hybrid of poet and industrialist, of bumpkin and guru, of living legend and modest disciple.
"Do you want to know what's hip?" Gaither asks, reflecting on the radical diversity in the music scene today. "Hip is being what you are. What's unhip is trying to be something you're not." It's interesting he would think this, ...1