Copyright 1997 by CCM Magazine
In the Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life, Clarence the angel says to George Bailey, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. And when he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" The loss of Rich Mullins leaves an awful hole, a hole in numerous individual lives and in an industry forever altered by his impact. In the next few pages close friends and fellow artists pay tribute to the man and his music.
The last thing Rich Mullins said to me was, "Keep me in mind." He had called six weeks before the accident to talk about a worship record that we had discussed off and on for years. "Keep me in mind," he said. And now that's the only way any of us can keep him, only in our minds and memories.
Now that he's not here to contradict them, a lot of people will say they knew him better than they really did. After producing 75 songs for him, I can't say that I really knew him that well. This, after all, was a man who recorded lead vocals in the dark with his back to the control room. But he wanted to be known and loved as badly as anyone I've ever known, and that need pushed him back out into the limelight he distrusted and of which he felt unworthy.
But if he remained a mystery to us, he knew himself absolutely, and he poured himself with painful honesty into his songs. Don't misunderstand; there were still things he couldn't say in the Christian music world, and to express those he wrote a page of prose nearly every day of his adult life, most of which he guarded with absolute secrecy.
Rich wasn't really happy, if happy means contended. He did possess a kind of fierce joy that came out in outrageous bursts of laughter, lightning bolts of emotional energy escaping him, keeping him level. From time to time, he would break into a character that I loved: from out of nowhere he would become a kind of ticked-off, cantankerous hillbilly. He would stride across the room pontificating in an exaggerated mountain accent, cussing everything that moved, doubling me over into laughter. But it was funny in a Sam Kinison, painful kind of way. There were times that he wouldn't do it no matter how much I begged. I think he realized that the character took him to a place he couldn't easily come back from, and though he loved to entertain, he hesitated to open up that part of himself. They angry hillbilly was close to home for Rich because Rich wasn't always nice. He knew being nice was the best choice, and he doggedly tried to be that way most of the time. But the choosing used up a lot of energy and sometimes without warning he would run out of nice and get absolutely furious. An angry Rich Mullins was a sight to behold. He was an unholy Elijah, burning everything in his path. At the time it irritated me, but now that I can't ever see it again, I realize I'll miss that as much as anything. It was completely human and somehow noble to see him demand to know, finger waving and eyes blazing, why life was the way it was just then.
He was the best writer that Christian music had produced, and he is utterly irreplaceable. He had the ability to write a line that moved you to tears even though you didn't know what it was about. With his time here on earth, he turned his discontent into art, separating himself from the careerists who think it would be neat to make a little money off of Jesus. His life and his work stand alone, and they are the stuff of heaven and very much the stuff of earth.
I will keep you in mind, Rich Mullins. Now you can ask God for all of us why it was like it was.
~Reed Arvin, producer
Rich Mullins was my hero long before I met him. Like thousands of his fans, I treasured up certain lines of his songs the way you store away all the sunsets, prayers, and late-night conversations that break through your consciousness and change you forever. Rich seemed to have more than his share of startling, profound, life-giving insights into the heart of God - more than even the usual quota for prophets, poets, or saints - and they rhymed!
Naturally, I wanted to meet him, this guy who could title a song "The Maker of Noses" and make your own nose and eyes run the first time you heard it. In 1995, I got my chance on the three-month tour of 65 cities with Rich and Ashley Cleveland.
The tour started two weeks after the release of my first record. I was green, scared, and completely unknown. I have since learned that there is a certain hierarchy to almost all tours, an appropriate and respectful deference to the headliner. Typically, an opening act's sound is quieter, the lights less bright. Everyone knows and observes these unwritten rules. Everyone except Rich, apparently. Every night he wandered out on stage, usually barefoot (so he wouldn't disappoint the fans who had come to count on his shoeless-ness) to introduce me to his audience, command for me their attention, and generously ease my way into the spotlight.
Rich didn't have much use for the "industry" code in general. He insisted upon saying what he really thought rather than what he knew people would want to hear. He refused to attempt the veneer of perfection we like to gloss over our heroes, and instead was uncomfortable frank about his frailties.
Rich was not what you'd expect in a lot of other ways, too. I had become accustomed to a vague but growing dissatisfaction in myself and among my friends with the institution of the church. If we went, it was because we knew we should, not because we felt it was what it should be. Not Rich. He loved church. He adored the feeble, faltering praise and worship that made the rest of us cringe. He said he loved to hear men sing out of tune.
He was like that about the Bible, too. While I read the Bible because of a desire for guidance and a sense of duty, Rich read it because he thought it contained in the most entertaining stories in the world. Those stories made him laugh that famous Mullins laugh, sometimes they made him cry, and always they fueled the fire in his heart to know that God of Jacob and David and Elijah better.
During the Liturgy, Legacy... Ragamuffin days, Rich was asked a lot about what kind of legacy he'd like to leave behind. I wonder if he had any idea how many lives he touched, how many hearts would be broken when he said "goodbye." Maybe he had an inkling of it. Maybe that's why he left us with "Hold Me Jesus" and about 80 other songs that will take us - if we let them - to the feet of the God of peace and comfort, the God who is probably making Rich laugh that famous Mullins laugh even more as I type this.
I am only beginning to discover the extent of Rich's legacy in my own life. Sometimes when I am about to make a justifiable but nonetheless selfish career decision, I am suddenly stopped short by the image of Rich onstage, his hair still wet from his pre-show shower, asking his fans to please listen to my songs. Sometimes when I begin to return to the Bible or to Sunday morning services with the familiarity that breeds indifference, I remember his passion for the things of God. I am undeniably better for having known him.
Rich Mullins was as human as they come. But he was what one writer has called a "living mystery" - he lived in such a way that his life would not make sense if God did not exist. May his songs and his memory be a legacy that gives us all the courage to follow his example.
It seems strange that we've been asked in the past few days to figure Rich Mullins out when we haven't been able to do that in the 41 years he was here with us. One thing I am confident of about Rich Mullins is that the hand of God was on him. The God that I am coming to know doesn't frequently choose people that we as Christians would think God would choose - appropriately dressed and without vices. God speaks through people who desperately need him. That's what made Rich so great to work with in the ministry of Compassion. It was so important to him to use all God has blessed him with to reach as many of the dirty, unwanted, drunk, hungry, lonely, abused, and naked ones because Rich himself knew this all too well. Through my tears I am laughing and full of joy because I know Rich Mullins has stood before the throne of God - maybe at first still holding his breath - and was immediately embraced and told the words he has always wanted to hear: "I love you."
~Alyssa Loukota, Compassion International
While working at a Christian music magazine, I had the unique privilege of being an editor for Rich Mullins - as if such a thing were actually possible. He dutifully sent in his column, and I sat and wondered how to possibly fix or change anything that came from that mind - which basically left me editing a lot of punctuation (he adored commas), correcting a few misspellings, and pretty much leaving words stand just the way he sent them in. I was just one of the many who found any words that poured out of his mouth or pen to be strokes of genius.
And now I sit here with a thousand jumbled memories of times spent with him. I adored him so much that I treasured all those moments even as they happened, but now that I know there will never be another, each memory comes back more colored, more dazzling, more splendid, more dark.
He could eat a full entree in a minute and a half. He and everything he touched smelled of patchouli. He's never seemed to know where he was going, but we all followed him anyway. He could cite phenomenal quotes from books or movies, but he couldn't remember something you told him yesterday. He was the only person in the world who called me Bob. He was the most inspiring, frustrating, enigmatic, maddening, brilliant, God-tuned man I have ever known.
He was the person who first showed me one of my favorite quotes. It was from Robert Frost, and it described how a good poem, just as real love, struck permanence in your heart instantly. It wasn't good because you never forgot it, but because you never could forget it. He called it taking and "immortal wound" and said "you will never get over it."
I will never get over Rich Mullins.
~Roberta Croteau, formerly of Release Magazine
Rich was the most complicated simpleton I ever met. He was the ones true bold statesman in this industry who was not afraid of disagreement or even the occasional controversy. One of the my favorite things that Rich ever said holds true in many of our lives: "I would rather live my life on the edge, confident of God's grace, than live my life in a pietistic manner." I envied his intelligence, I admired his depth of Scripture, and I stood in awe of the grasp he had on the huge love of our God of grace. Rich didn't put down "traditional" deep roots on earth. He never married. He was a nomad, but his songs are the roots that will outlive all of us. Rich Mullins was my friend, a teacher, a leader, and I will miss him dearly.
~Don Donahue, formerly of Reunion Records
Rich Mullins' life and music have impacted me more than anyone I know. He had the ability to take the mundane and make it majestic. Nobody on this planet wrote songs like he did, and I feel we've lost one of the only true poets in our industry. I love Rich Mullins... and no one will ever know how much I'll miss him.
~Michael W. Smith
I did not know Rich very well, even though I recorded his songs, even though we toured together back in the '80s. I listened to his music driving through the mountains of Colorado, through long nights on a tour bus. I heard him sing in the loft of the red barn on our farm to hundreds of kids. I admired him from afar - challenged by his honesty, moved by his generosity, inspired by his artistry. His was a rare and priceless voice.
The last time I saw Rich was at the Cornerstone festival. It was hard to not get right into the spontaneity that surrounded him. A perfect example of it occurred just before our set that night. I was stressing out about the fact that I didn't have nearly enough material to play when Rich very casually suggested that he could come and play some if I needed him to. Being up there with Rich that night filled me with a feeling that I can't really relay. I wish I could've told Rich then how much I loved him.
~Derek Webb, Caedmon's Call
Rich's death is one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with, and one of the strangest things I've ever tried to understand. I know that God is God - He is sovereign, and He's all I can trust in. Rich was the greatest influence in my faith, my philosophies, my musical vision... everything. I was blessed to be able to spend some time one-on-one with my mentor. No one could ever measure how much my generation and I will miss Rich.
~Cliff Young, Caedmon's Call
In April 1996, Third Day had the incredible privilege of performing at a Rich Mullins tribute concert in Nashville (honoring the release of Rich's best of album, Songs). That night we were more nervous then we have ever been for any concert in our career. As we took the stage, the entire audience disappeared except for one man, Rich Mullins, who was looking at us quite curiously. When we started playing "Creed," I experienced something which I had never felt before or since: a passion for music, a passion for humanity, but mostly, a passion for God. That was Rich's gift. His songs have images of green pastures, of starry nights, of children at play, and people in love. But as you listen, the pictures in your mind are always transformed to the face of Jesus.
~Tai Anderson, Third Day
To albums alone from Rich Mullins - The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 1 and A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band - were enough to change my life, but he did so much more without even realizing it. Rich was a man who was on a journey to see God, and we who knew him and his music got to tag along for the ride, along the way, seeing a glimpse of God ourselves.
~Mac Powell, Third Day
When I heard Rich had died, the first thing that went through my mind was, "NO! I'm not finished with him yet!" In the brief amount of time I knew Rich, I learned a whole lot. I learned God was bigger than the box my denomination had tried to put Him in. Rich was brilliant, deep, thought-provoking... he basically could make your brain sweat. I guarantee you, it won't take Rich long to corral Mother Teresa, the apostle Paul, Moses, and the Lord Jesus together and try to get some kind of debate going. I'd sure love to listen in.
Rich's death is hard to swallow for anybody who knew him or his songs much at all. His quirky life got inside as. His work moved and disturbed us in its relentless homage to the truth of Christ.
So full of whimsy and the sound of the eternal ringing in his years, Rich was famous for being clueless and profound at the same time! He was both an eccentric stranger and a friend to me. Being a part of his music is one of them cherished hallmarks of my life.
In the studio Rich would say to me, "Don't make this too pretty." He didn't want to be sentimental. "Hello Old Friends" says it outright: "Let love be stronger than the feelings." He was always laughing about how out-of-tune his instruments were. He played a beat-up buzzing guitar until one day somebody came to the airport and handed him a new Guild which he received like an amazed little boy. Life seemed trivial and deep, like some kind of holy joke.
I suppose it's no real surprise that his life ended abruptly. He did seem to live like a meteorite! That "reckless, raging fury" of God's love is what he was onto! I simply hoped for more chapters, more chances, more strange improvisational occasions to play for and glimpse the wild heart of a true believer.
So goodbye Rich. Go headlong into the mystery of God. I am grateful to have lived during your lifetime.
To sum up Rich, he was one of the few hitch-hiking, dulcimer-playing, Quaker-Catholics that I knew who lived in a teepee yet could stir our hearts for God like no other. I love him, and I will miss him.
~Lori Lee Loving, a friend
On my first visit to Nashville about 14 years ago, Rich walked me around town, talked to be about songwriting and introduced me to Goo-Goo Clusters. Since then, his thoughts and phrases have freed me to understand God's heart, appreciate His creations, and simply worship Him. In Rich's songs I learned to enjoy earth and dream of heaven. I only wonder at the images Rich Mullins could write for us now, and I envy his place with Jesus.
- Cruel Mystery -
If you were in my shoes
You'd wax poetically
You'd lift a glass of something
And sing a song for me
You'd say that it was timing
And there would be no doubt
You'd find a silver lining
In the backest of the clouds
If I was in your place
You'd say that life goes on
You'd smile at my funeral
Commit me to the dawn
You'd hold on to a rumor
Of life beyond the grave
And get on with the living
Like any other day.
If a love was ever wild
It was blazing through your heart
Like a fire in the wheat field
Without a place to stop
I watched you burning brightly
With glory in your flame
Like anyone who knew you
I will never be the same.
Such cruel mystery
How I wonder why you went
But what seems insane to me
Seemed to you like perfect sense.
Of all the artists' projects that I have been honored to sing on over the years, Rich's records were always some of my favorites. I loved his realness - his vulnerability - his incredible sense of humor and grasp of the absurd! I loved his overwhelming passion for God mixed with endless questions about how to be more fully human, as Christ was the most human human being of all. How do we get there? How do we affect the world? How do we also just enjoy this day? How do we help the underdog? - the Indian community? the ones lost in the cracks? - He was bold, bold, bold for God and so unaffected by earthly constraints.
My favorite Rich song has been balm to me through divorce, depression, and losses of every kind over the years. I know Rich is singing with the bravest freedom now.
"There's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't nothin' to be afraid of
There's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't no reason to fear
There's bound to come some trouble to your life
Just reach out to Jesus and hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there" (from "Bound to Come Some Trouble").
~Bonnie Keen, First Call
Rich was a grown man whose face revealed the years of living and struggling with the adverse elements of life as well as eyes that shined with child-like wonderment and innocence. I believe that was Jesus looking through those eyes. I would desire to be as bold and passionate for the truth as Rich was. His spirit lives, his music remains with us, and with God, his greatest work is ahead.
~Phil Keaggy, an honorary Ragamuffin
Who will remember you were here?
And hold your memory dear?
I will - through all the years
One day in glory's hallowed halls
The heavenly applause
Will roll for you because -
You fed the lake of love
You filled the cup of peace
And gladly poured your heart out for
One aching soul to ease
You raised a glass of laughter at
The wonder of it all
And learned to rain forgiveness
By standing in the waterfall
You carried help from heaven's well
To cool one fevered brow
And emptied your life in the river that runs -
And returns to the heart of God
Where you are sailing now.
I first met Rich in Nashville, one early summer day ten years ago. It was not a typical "interview." We walked - through the park, around the Vanderbilt campus, down quiet neighborhood streets - a couple miles or more. And we talked. About ideas. Philosophy. Theology. Creation. Literature. I knew that day that our working relationship would be colored with friendship, and that his music would change me.
One chilly Chicago day earlier this year, we met on the Wheaton College campus where he was scheduled to perform the following evening. Once again, as many times before, we talked about ideas and authors and faith and life. He asked about my son, and we talked about music and about a saint named Francis. I heard a yearning in Rich's voice - it was so often there, in those conversations - the awareness of better things ahead, thanks to grace.
Then the news came to me: Rich was gone. In the sadness of loss and the gratitude of hope, I found myself repeating the words - his words: "And if I weep, let it be as a man who is longing for his home."
Which, of course, is where Rich is: home.
~James Long, CCM Magazine
When my wife, Ashley Cleveland, began touring with Rich Mullins in 1995, I was just vaguely aware of his music and had never seen him perform. Over the course of the tour, I would sit and listen to the band play and to the amazing things Rich would talk about between songs. Rich was saying things about the Lord I already knew but just was not paying attention to. His concerts helped make me aware of God knocking on the door of my heart.
Rich Mullins and all the people in his band and organization made both my wife and myself feel like we could legitimately make music about our faith and have it be real because Rich was so real. He was one of us. His vision in his music helped change the course of my life.
I still got the coat you were in Ireland, Rich. It's right here in the room with me. That long, heavy, Army Surplus overcoat I bought one frigid day in Manhattan for 50 bucks. It was never stylish, but it was thick enough to soak up the smell of wherever I was so that I never had to buy souvenirs.
I didn't like to take that coat on trips. Too big. Too bulky. Worst of all, it wouldn't fit in any suitcase, so it had to be worn everywhere. But it sure could keep a body warm.
You found that out the very first day of the video shoot. We're supposed to spend a week filming Rich Mullins trekking across the Emerald Isle in winter, but the clothes you stuffed in your duffel bag looked like something a kid packs for soccer camp. When you arrived a day late because you forgot your passport, that somehow made sense - if passports prove citizenship, then your life proved them obsolete. But how could anybody forgets to pack warm clothes in winter?
Good thing we had the coat. It was the only garb you tried on that looked good on you. And you'd wrap its thick lapels around your neck and pull up the collar. And you almost disappeared into it, didn't you?
I believe that code made you invincible. There you were, standing at the edge of the Cliffs of Maher, singing "The Color Green" to God and the seagulls. That code was so heavy, it ain't reviewed to the edge while you saying.
Not a shred of sentimentality ever passed between us, comrade. Just that coat. And now I'm staring at that coat through the only tears of cried since the news, because I see it for what it really is.
The coat is the grace of God, Rich. Too big. Too bulky. Had to be worn everywhere. But it sure could keep a body warm.
And you finally just disappeared into it, didn't you?
Late one night in Dublin, Ireland, Rich and I were discussing music. Rich offered up his current list of faves which included new and wonderful renditions of Samuel Barber, Copland, and Vaughan Williams. I on the other hand, said I was currently existing on a steady diet of Smashing Pumpkins. To which he replied, "I just don't get that stuff!" I responded, "Quite frankly Rich, I guess I kind of use it as a drug. I mean, I'm 39 years old, and at times I feel more angry now, as a Christian, then when I was 18 and living without Christ." Richard paused for a brief moment and quietly said, "You'll grow out of it."
Since that night I've thought many times about what Rich said to me. I also remember catching glimpses of an almost visible tranquility, that for brief moments seem to quietly surround him.
This past spring on the morning of my 40th birthday, I woke up to a hope and peace in my life that I had not experienced since my conversion to Christ in 1976. A peace that silenced my angry heart, and a hope that actually took comfort in the thought of growing old.
The last time I saw Rich we were working on a music video together. When he arrived, the first thing I noticed was that the tranquility that I had seen in Ireland had increased into a constant radiance. I told him that we had to talk before he left, but time did not permit a conversation that day. As we were filming I managed to ask him if he had heard the new Appalachia Waltz CD by Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O'Connor. He said he had, and that in fact he was now buying it by the case because he couldn't seem to keep a copy around for himself, since he kept giving it away.
After Rich left, my thoughts went back to his simple statement about growing old in the Lord. I realized that unbeknown to him or me, he had given me a blessing of hope, a hope of peace that comes when you realize that God will complete the good work He's started in you.
The world's an angry place Mr. Mullins and now "you've grown out of it."
~Ben Pearson, a friend
I am grateful because I had the privilege of living, for a few moments, in the eye of the hurricane that was Rich Mullins. I can tell you the stuff being tossed around in there was sometimes hard to see because everything was traveling at such great speed. The mission on the Navajo reservation was in there as was the idea of bringing St. Francis into the modern age. The chip of the moon that fell from the heavens on the floor of the carpenter's shop... a log and mud hut in the southwestern United States... teaching little children the joy of singing... teaching old men the joy of singing. He told how church was the only place you could catch them doing that and that was good enough reason to go.
He made sketches of living a life of faith that beg for the strength to be carried out in reality. He was the man who made his life's work that of portraiture, since he captured the face of Christ in so much of his work. If ever I saw the eyes of Christ, I saw them staring at me through Rich.
~Jimmy Abegg, Ragamuffin
I only knew Rich Mullins for a few short months, but I had the privilege of spending the last weekend of his life with him. I went to Window Rock to hear his music, but it was there I truly met the real Rich, a man who laughed with Navajo children, who told the stories of the history and culture of a people who had become his family. There I found the essence of Rich Mullins, a follower of St. Francis of Assisi, who lived a life of simplicity in a traditional Navajo hogan, built with his own hands. There I admired the dedication of a man who mentored his small band of disciples, the Kid Brothers of St. Frank.
Rich became agitated when he spoke of modern settlers and missionaries who still expect these dignified people to adjust to "white" America with its consumer culture and "white" Jesus. He was grieved by the poverty and related problems these gentle souls have struggled with for over 100 years. But when he talked about the architecture, art, and handiwork of America's native people, he was as excited as a young boy on Christmas morning.
It was there that I realized just how clearly Rich's words and music revealed his extraordinary heart. But it was the passion with which he lived that blazed like a radiant light.
"Praised be You my Lord God, with all your creatures, especially Brother Sun, who brings us the day and who brings us the light; fair is he and shines with great splendor" (Canticle of the Sun, St. Francis of Assisi).
~Jim Chafee, Myrrh Records
It saddens me to know that I will never again see Rich's face peerr around the corner into my office, showing up unannounced. As many of his friends would do, I would drop whatever I was doing to spend time with him. It would take pages to share all that I have learned from Rich. He lived life with reckless abandon, and he spent his life on the things that matter, pouring out compassion to those in need. I once tried to track him down to tell him his song had hit No. 1 on the charts, but he was singing on a street corner to a group of kids in Spain. Rich was an everyday missionary who was perhaps one of the greatest writers of our time. Rich wanted to be known as a man after God's own heart. That is forever how I shall remember him.
~Michelle Fink, Reunion Records
I never quite understood this friendship that developed between a long-haired, free-spirited, hard-living songwriter and a balding, conservative, Midwestern Roman Catholic priest. But God taught me a long time ago that friends don't grow in greenhouses. They grow like weeds in places you least expect them... Through it all I knew that Rich was seeking God. I believe that we are all seeking God. It's written on our hearts. He gave that to us, God did. But Rich was consciously, actively, excitedly seeking God. That is what I'll remember most. Oh God, our heavenly father, You give and you take away. You have given us beauty and love in the person and music of Rich Mullins, and You have taken him away. I believe that You gave us such people to reflect Your own beautiful image, and I believe that You take them away so that we must turn away from the reflection and back to You, its source, our Creator, our Redeemer.
~Father Matthew McGuinness, Mullins' spiritual director
He was an artist's artist, a teacher's teacher, and a friend's friend. But most of all, he was God's.
~Steve Cudworth, a friend
Rich Mullins clung to God's eternal vision of our lives more passionately than anyone I know. That passion inspired and challenged everyone around him. The first time I heard "If I Stand," I sat in my car and cried. Until we meet again my friend, I will miss you.
I still remember his torn T-shirt, ripped jeans, disheveled hair tucked into a ponytail and his feet - bare and grimy. I whispered to my then roommate, "This must be the opening act." Moments later, she whispered back, "No, it's not. That's him. That's Rich Mullins." Little did I know then that the man who appeared reckless on the outside was not much different on the inside. Over the years as I got to know him, I found Rich to be vulnerable, honest, and human. Very human. Not the saint some wished him to be, his vices were many. I will never understand how someone so basely human could write lyrics so profoundly divine. But that was his way with God... and God's way with him.
~Ana Gascon Ivey, a friend
Rich was an ordinary guy with an extraordinary gift: expression. If ever there was anyone who was prophetic in the means of modern music, Rich was in that club. His seal of musical creativity was definitely on a road less traveled, and in some ways, the ragamuffin saga which he created enveloped his very life.
If I could say it as honestly as possible, I would say that I never understood Rich. He was a child-man of great depth, a man of great mystery, and even grander words and theories.
Rich lives on loudly in my heart.
~Keven Max Smithh, dc Talk
I will forever be indebted to Rich Mullins for his awesome enlightenment on lyrical writing. He leaves to me an example of a simplistic life, a life where the cares of this present darkness are temporal, and passion for God and His people is what the definition of "life" really is.
~Michael Tate, dc Talk
I met Rich in 1982 and Pam Mark Hall's house in Nashville. After arriving at the party, I noticed a tent in the back yard and thought it was for the kids until someone told me that a guy named Rich Mullins was living in it. I was a song pluger at Word Music so I had heard that Rich's song, "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," had just been recorded by Amy Grant. Why was a guy who'd just had the cut of his life living in a tent? Anyway, I was looking for a roommate so I casually mentioned this to some friends at the party. Before I knew it, this unkempt, unshaven, unshowered tent dweller ran up to me and said, "Can I be your roomie?" I think he moved in the next day. For the next nine months Rich Mullins was my roomie. Contrary to popular belief, Rich was normal. He observed good hygiene, he made his bed, and he paid his share of the bills on time... in cash! We talked about girls, music , chili, God; you know, things roommate talk about. Nine months of living with Rich Mullins. It seems like an eternity ago. We were roomies. We were friends... I'll miss him.
~Bubba Smith, Word Records
Rich Mullins and I were friends a long time ago. He was finishing Bible school in Cincinnati, and he would hitch-hike down to Nashville every so often to sleep on our couch and test the waters of Christian music. I nervously enjoyed my time with Rich. His thinking always challenged mine. At one point his favorite song was a Peter Gabriel work from the point of view of an insane man locked in an asylum. He loved the raw, passionate, honesty of it. And he dared to identify with the character. I recognized the brilliance too - after he showed it to me - but it shook my safe, church-boy world. Rich liked to do that. He told my Alabama-born wife that he would never date a woman from the South because they lacked culture and sophistication - this coming from a man who did not bathe with any regularity. He didn't hide his hatreds or his loves. He expressed them with the recklessness of a 2-year-old in a glass-blower's shop. And internally, we all scurried around him, trying to catch the knickknacks of our decorum before he knocked them to the floor.
Rich won't come back. He won't struggle. He won't write. He won't shock anyone anymore. The backdrop is torn, and even the smallest of players recognizes the empty space where Rich Mullins used to be.
~Jim Weber, a friend
My greatest memories of Rich are when I first met him and signed to a publishing and artist deal. I remember he was so passionate about the original vision of his song, "Sing Your Praise to the Lord." It was seven minutes long, and he didn't understand why we wanted to shorten it. I quickly realized he was truly going to be a unique artist and writer. We had no idea at the time what his impact would be. His music will outlive us all because he was impassioned for the heart of God.
~Michael Blanton, former co-owner of Reunion Records
Rich's songs did what, I believe, good art is supposed to do. They made me look at something familiar from a different vantage point, and in so doing made me spend a little more time re-evaluating it.
A remember the night we celebrated my oldest daughter's graduation from high school. Rich and Beaker said they'd be there, and they were - eventually. They called about the time everyone was leaving to say they were lost. This was a common occurrence in the Mullins lifestyle. Anyway, they made the scene, and those still among us at that point would enjoy the dynamic duo's company and fine fellowship long into the early morning. It's just like the Irish you know... the last ones to arrive, and the last to leave.
This time though, he left far too soon. Rich's contribution will live on in songs that were equal parts winds of heaven and stuff of Earth. For a guy who spent more of his time thinking about heavenly things than most, he was one of the earthiest individuals I have ever known. This is the man I knew, and the legacy that I shall never forget.
~Thom Granger, former senior editor, CCM Magazine
Writing with Rich Mullins was like walking through a fragrant spring meadow with golden gossamer wings hovering over us. Void of self-consciousness, there was mutual respect and surrender to the melody, lyric, and God of the creative process. I was inspired by his fearless visions.
~Pam Mark Hall
From the first time I heard him play at my freshmen orientation in 1975, 'til the last time I spoke with him the day before his death, the childlike simplicity and total complexity of Rich Mullins was to enchant and haunt my life. He truly was a paradox. Rich was a man who could quote C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, and Yeats with ease, but could never seem to locate his keys... or his checkbook... or his airline tickets. A man who entertained thousands in grand churches and theaters who lived in a tiny trailer off an Indian reservation. A man of quiet simplicity who spun tales for the world of the wonder and the majesty of God. He was a paradox - at times he was a mess, but he was my dearest friend, brother, and companion. Whether it was a 2 a.m. phone call just minutes after he penned "If I Stand," traveling hundreds of miles over the reservation while arguing theology, or listing to hundreds of pages of his journal, Rich challenged me in my walk with Christ and in my relationship to fellow pilgrims. Although I will miss you, Richard (something that always made you uncomfortable as though it were your fault), I am grateful. Grateful for long walks and deep talks... for theological arguments that lasted 'til dawn... for dulcimer music and friendship and your goofy laugh... for sharing your struggles and dreams and life with me, thank you. Rest well, dear friend. We will have much theology to discuss on that day when the Jordan waits for me no more.
~Kathy Sprinkle, a friend
How would I try and describe my brother? I look at him and see all the things that other people see. He has been known as Wayne, Richard, Chard, and Rich. People have seen more things in him than names that he has been called. I cannot nor would I try to speak for anyone but myself, but here are some things that I saw and believe were part of my brother. One of the most important things that I believe drew people and drew my family to him was that he was honest and open even when it made people uncomfortable. I think that we all saw in him a man who would say to us, "I am a weary struggler on this road that is life. Come and join me on the way." When he found something that helped grow closer to his destination, which was to be like Christ, he wanted to share that with others that they might be helped on their journey. Some people were drawn to him because of the goal of his journey. They had the same goal. Others were drawn to him because they saw in him a sinner who was struggling to sin less. In him they saw the good that could be alongside the wrong that they might see in themselves. I have heard and taken part in discussions about whether he was special or not. Some people think that he was completely different from all of us ordinary folks. Other people say, "No, he was as common as anyone." I think that he was blessed with uncommon gifts. He used those special guests in a very common way. He approached his ministry the way that I have seen my father work around our nursery. He approached it the way I have seen my mother in the care she has taken of our family and home. I have seen the same approach in all of my brothers and sisters. It is the approach that the only way to do a job was to do the best you can do. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. He approached life with his special gifts the way we have approached life with ours. Depending on our perspective, we will all remember him differently. We may see him as many different things. The truth is he was all of them. He was a saint in that his deepest desire was to be like Christ and that he belonged to Him. He was a sinner in that he felt the battle between the Spirit and the flesh, and all too often his flesh failed him. He was Wayne. He was Richard. He was Chard, and he was Rich. In my mind he was a fellow weary traveler who called to me in his music and his life, "Come and join me on the way. Let us share the journey." His journey is now done. I will miss him as I finish mine.
~David Mullins, Rich's Brother
An Open Thank You
As we sit down to write this Thank You we are overwhelmed by the support and comfort given by so many throughout the last few weeks. We would like to thank everyone for the prayers, thoughts, and encouragement that have undergirded our family through this difficult time. We have received many notes and letters telling us of the impact that Rich had on lives. It means so much to know that God used him in such a mighty and powerful way.
We want to thank everyone who has sent or will send donations to Compassion USA in his memory. We would also like to thank everyone for the privacy that was given to our family immediately following the accident. Please continue to remember Mitch McVicker as he recovers from his injuries. Thanks again for everything you have done. May God richly bless each of you for the ministry that you have given to our family.
The Family of Rich Mullins