Christian Music Star Carman Returns To Stage, Tulsa After Bout With Cancer

Friday, February 20th 2015, 9:30 pm
By: News On 6

If you were a fan of Christian music in the 1980s and '90s then you are probably familiar with the name Carman.

He made his home in Tulsa, but his music was played around the world with tens of thousands of people attending his concerts.

What happened to him? The answer is as dramatic as Carman himself.

It's been 20 years since Christian music singer Carman Licciardello made his home in Tulsa. His life today is a world away from that golden season of his career - young, flashy and on fire for Jesus.

To understand where Carman is now you have to know where he's been.

The year is 1994, and fans are being turned away by the busload as Carman takes the stage for a packed house at the Mabee Center.

He grew up in New Jersey, perfected his flash in Vegas and took the Christian music world by storm with a never-before-seen mix of rap, praise and worship and story songs that played as miniature movies, each one starring the man himself.

Love it or hate it, it was working.

Carman sold more than 10 million records, was nominated for four Grammys and was twice named Billboard Magazine's top contemporary Christian artist.

In Tulsa, his music ministry brought in more than $5 million a year.

“Every artist has that season where almost everything you do just works,” he said.

And seasons of utter frustration; in 1995, Carman abruptly announced he was leaving his new $3 million office complex in south Tulsa and moving to Nashville.

“Things were changing, art was changing. The record companies really wanted to sign artists who had what they considered to be crossover appeal,” he said.

Carman, a charismatic Christian with 15 gold and platinum albums to his name, was turned away at the door.

“It got to the point where I couldn't even get them on the phone,” he said.

Carman next tried his hand at acting. He put out a few movies and staged a concert every now and then, but the best part of his career was behind him - and that was the least of his problems.

“It's just like in the movies where somebody is talking and talking and as soon as they say the word cancer, the whole room just goes dead and you don't hear anything else,” Carman said.

After years of sensing something was wrong, Carman finally went to a doctor. His diagnosis was multiple myloma, bone cancer. His prognosis, perhaps three years to live.

“By the time I left the office I just started putting things together in my head; thinking ‘well, I haven't done a whole lot in the past few years and maybe this is it,'” Carman said. “It more bothered me who I was going to have to tell.”

So he began with a post on Facebook, and, within just a few hours, something rather remarkable started to happen.

Carman said. “There were like two or three thousand comments. I was like, it can't be. And then I looked again later on and it was 5,000, 10,000 comments. I was stunned. I didn't think anybody was even paying attention.”

Now that he'd found his fans, Carman launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for one final album and concert tour; at the end of two months, he'd more than doubled his goal.

But he wasn't outpacing cancer. Despite the outpouring of prayers on his behalf, there were no signs his naturalist treatment was working.

Terry: “Did you ever have a point where you felt like you lost your faith?”
Carman: “I don't know if it was a matter of losing my faith, but sometimes when you get so frustrated with not getting an answer you have a tendency to (throws up hands).

Carman finally turned to traditional medicine and found his way to the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Center and the hands of renowned cancer specialist Dr. Bart Barlogie.

While others doctors gave him three years, Barlogie was talking about a cure.

“Just, you know, get off the hook. And think I'm home free,” Dr. Barlogie said.

The path to that freedom was grueling. Carman moved to Little Rock for eight months of intensive treatment. He was weak; he was sick; he was bald, but he was once again filled with hope.

“I had my purpose back, and God wanted me to be back out there again,” he said.

Last May, just one month after leaving the hospital, Carman was back out there again on his "No Plan B" tour.

Carman said some people don't see his healing as a product of faith, but when he stands on stage in front of the people he thought had forgotten him, he knows better.

“When you get in there and think about what I had and how dead I should be right about now, that's pretty miraculous," he said.

Carman just completed a week-long follow up evaluation with Barlogie and was told there is no sign of the cancer returning.

His "No Plan B" tour is coming to Tulsa. He'll perform this Friday at the Spirit Life Church on South Peoria. You can get more information about Carman's tour online.