4Him (Contemporary Musicians)
The multiple award-winning gospel group 4HIM are noted for their upbeat, beautiful harmonies and poignant, message-laden lyrics. The band is comprised of vocalists Mark Harris, Kirk Sullivan, Andy Chrisman, and Marty Magehee, all of whom were previously with the seminal Christian pop group Truth. Billboard's Deborah Evans Price wrote, "4HIM has built one of the biggest followings In Christian musicn the strength of Its polished pop sound and Harris' songwriting prowess." The Christian "Fab 4" is especially noted for superb vocals and sophisticated pop sensibilities.
4HIM sold more than two million records, enjoyed twenty number one radio singles, and was nominated for more than 30 Dove Awards. They won for Group of the Year from 1993-95. The foursome won the Gospel Music Association's Group of the Year accolade in 1993, 1994, and 1995, and each new album for the group was part of an Improved musical progression. Laura Harris of Contemporary Christian Music described their sound as, "lightly seasoned with tastefully placed distorted electric guitar, while on the other hand it often lends itself to an unmistakably acoustic sound. One thing that sets 4HIM apart from other groups is its vocal mix...(featuring) only one or two vocalists per song while the others provide seamless, substantial background vocals."
Mark Harris, Marty Magehee, Andy Chrisman, and Kirk Sullivan were all former members of the group Truth and worked together for three years before forming 4HIM. Harris is the primary songwriter for the group but Magehee contributes songwriting talent as well. The group released their debut album 4HIM in 1990, which featured the hit single "Where There is Faith," and after their debut Christian Research Report poll voted the group Best New Artist. The following year the group released Face the Nation and garnered a Dove Award for Best New Artist, and a Christian Research Report poll voted the group Best Group. Face the Nation sawfive hit singles, including "Why," "He Never Changes," and "Chisel Meets the Stone". In 1992, the group released The Basics of Life, which was RIAA-certified as gold and, again, the Christian Research Report poll voted the quartet Best Group. The group also received Impact Awards from the Christian Bookseller Association for Cassette Jacket Design and Total Promotional Campaign for The Basics of Life.
The Season of Love was released in 1993 as a Christmas album. Subsequent albums were also released including The Ride in 1994 and The Message in 1996. All received raving reviews and various awards and award nominations including a Grammy Award nomination for The Message. Twenty of the group's songs have reached the top spot on the charts and the group has received sponsorships from the American Bible Society and Compassion International.
In 1994, the group took a trip to Russia to distribute Bibles and reach Russian audiences; the trip was planned in conjunction with the American Bible Society. The trip was documented in the video for the single "Real Thlng"from The Ride. In 1996, 4HIM toured 40 cities with the all-female group Point of Grace, followed by another 40-city tour with Point of Grace six months later in 1997. In 1998, their seventh release, Obvious, was cross promoted with a devotional book titled The Basics of Life, which was written by the group. 4HIM took a 23-city city tour to launch the release in 1998. Sullivan told Christian Retailing magazine, "As believers we should live a life in front of other people that would make it obvious to them that we're different. We don't have to wear a cross and carry a big Bible around all the time."
One of the group's main strengths is a common musical goal and shared perspective, and the most difficult aspect of creating new material is finding producers and arrangers who understand the group's sound. Group members remain flexibles to which member sings on which songhen recording in the studio, preferring to opt for what sounds best at the moment. The members of 4HIM feel that delivering God's message has been the driving force behind their music; as a result, they choose songs of encouragement with pertinent religious messages, and are noted for being very straightforward about their faith in Christianity. They also bring different strengths and talent to the group. Chrisman, the father of two, is considered the perfectionist in the group, the member who wants to try something repeatedly until it's perfect. Sullivan isthe most communicative, passionate member and Harris is the primary songwriter and a devoted family man with two children. Magehee contracted a rare, debilitating form of arthritis in 1994 which required 11 different specialists to diagnose, and he was given a 25 percent chance of ever walking again. Six months later, after a concert in Fort Wayne, IN, he felt healed and knew it was from God's hand. The single "Sacred Hideaway" was a reference to this experience. Chrisman told New Music Magazine's Jerry Williams, "We know that 4HIM, that every artist, has a shelf life. And we've decided that we can't waste any time talking about stuff that's fluff.
After working together for more than ten years, the group's members acknowledge that they go through periods of renewal, much like a long-married couple. In a 1998 interview, Harris told Williams, "I think our purpose has changed a little ... God revealed to us that we really need to go one step further with one another and minister to one another. And then the ministry we have on stage is just going to be an overflow of what happens every day within the lives of the four of us toward each other." Asked how long he thought the group would stay together; Chrisman responded, "We try not to put any pressure on ourselves to keep going longer than we should, and we try not to limit God."
4Him, Benson, 1990.
Face The Nation, Benson, 1991.
The Basics of Life, Benson, 1992.
The Season of Love, Benson, 1993.
The Ride, Benson, 1994.
The Message, Benson, 1996.
Obvious, Benson, 1998.
Billboard, May 2, 1998; May 25, 1996.
Christian Retailing, March 24, 1998.
Contemporary Christian Music, April 1998.
New Music Magazine, Spring 1998.
Contemporary Christian Music Magazine Online: http://www.ccmcom.com/ccmmag/96sept/09964HIM_cover.html
B. Kimberly Taylor