Michael W. Smith’s contributions to the kingdom go far beyond creating memorable songs. He is a mentor whose wise counsel has inspired a new generation of young artists and he is a leader whose creative vision has had immeasurable impact on the church and believers all over the world. Most of all, he’s a worshipper whose life on stage and off celebrates the God he serves.
Born in Kenova, West Virginia, on October 7, 1957, Michael wrote his first song at age 5. At age ten he gave his life to Christ and he spent the remainder of his youth with a group of strong Christian friends. However, once he was in college he found a new group of friends and started experimenting with alcohol, drugs and partying.
In 1978 he moved to Nashville to work as a songwriter and he quickly started playing music with a local band. A year later he hit bottom and recommitted his life to Christ. In 1981, he signed to Meadowgreen Music as a staff writer, where over the next few years he provided gospel hits for such artists as Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither and Amy Grant. He began touring as a keyboardist with Grant in 1982 and the following year, after releasing his first album, The Michael W. Smith Project, became her opening act. His debut album garnered him a Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Performance. Smith became a headliner following the release of his second album, Michael W. Smith 2. Afterwards, he changed musical directions and began recording more rock-oriented music in order to reach a younger audience.
As a result, some of his songs became more secular and began breaking through to mainstream audiences. His first real shot at mainstream music came in 1991 when his label, Reunion Records, allowed Geffen Records to distribute his albums. While some feared that Smith was selling out to the more lucrative secular market, Smith saw it differently, maintaining that he really only wanted to get the message of the Gospel out to a wider audience and to help young people.
25 years after his first taste of success, he has become one of the best-known names in Christian music with a stellar career that boasts 3 Grammy Awards (amidst 13 nominations), 42 Dove Awards, and an American Music Award among countless other accolades. Throughout his career, Michael has had the opportunity to sing for Presidents and national leaders, and counts among his friends President George W. Bush and his father, Bush, Sr., and the Reverend Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham. He is active in Billy Graham Crusades as well as The Samaritan’s Purse, the ministry headed by Franklin Graham.
Beyond his own musical career, Smith was instrumental in launching Rocketown. Founded in 1994, Rocketown is a holistic, faith-based youth outreach facility located in downtown Nashville. It has served thousands of youth in the community by providing programming focused on nurturing the mind, body and spirit.