Though [Michael W.] Smith admits that he and Rich Mullins "weren't that close," he spent his share of time with the misfit songwriter and was deeply affected by Mullins' life - and his death. That's clearly reflected by Smith's instrumental homage to Mullins ("Song for Rich") on Live the Life and his cover of "I See You" on the Exodus Project.
"When I heard the news, I was in Charlotte, N.C., getting ready to walk on before 15,000 people. And Randy Stonehill came back - Randy was my hero growing up and then we got to be friends - and he said, 'Man, I need to tell you something. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Rich has moved on. He's left us.' I didn't understand. So he told me what happened, and I was just shocked, just sitting there in disbelief. I didn't cry. I was perplexed. [I'm thinking], 'I gotta go on in 15 minutes!' I opened up the show with 'Step by Step.' I didn't tell the audience - I didn't think I could do it. I got through the show, but when I was walking offstage, I started to lose it. And when I got backstage, I was just a wreck. I went on for an hour, uncontrollably weeping. 'Okay God... You're in control.'
"I just really, really miss him," Smith says quietly, his eyes again welling up with tears. "I find myself, now that he's gone... it still gets really hard. I sing his songs in concert, and I lose it... I just lose it. I don't know what it is, but [he] really affected me, made me reevalutate things. The guy was restless. And that's hopefully what I'm getting at. I actually thought about it today for the first time. There's so much I love about being here, and I love my family. I'd lay down my life for my kids, and I'd give up my career today if my family was suffering. But then I found myself - probably for the first time - saying, 'I'm restless. I don't belong here.' I just think [Rich] left an enormous legacy of who he was and what he stood for. If in some way I can carry on just a piece of that legacy, I think I [will have] accomplished a lot."
Copyrighted by CCM Magazine, 1998
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