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Times Free Press file photo / Carmelo Dominic Licciardello

Carmelo Dominic Licciardello, a contemporary Christian artist known around the world simply as "Carman," died Tuesday, Feb. 16, in a Las Vegas hospital after complications of surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. He was 65.

Over his career, Carman earned seven Dove Awards, four Grammy nominations and 16 platinum and gold albums.

He performed in Chattanooga several times over the years, including shows at the McKenzie Arena in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2001. He also headlined the first Faith and Family Night at the Riverbend Festival in 2001, performing in front of tens of thousands of people.

The event was presented without the sale of alcohol on a night that had been "dark" during past festivals.

Then-Riverbend Executive Director Chip Baker said organizers were looking both to use the sound and lighting equipment that was already in place on a night when the event usually shut down and to provide an option for those who complained the annual festival was "just a drunk-fest."

Baker said Carman was the biggest thing in contemporary Christian music at the time, and "it went very well. If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right," he said of booking the artist.

Carman, a cancer survivor, regularly appeared in Chattanooga over the years, making his last appearance here at the ICCM Theater on Lee Highway in 2015 as part of his No Plan B Tour. That tour began in 2013 after he was diagnosed with cancer and given three to five years to live.

He created the tour after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells. He later proclaimed himself cancer free and credited God's grace for helping him endure the painful medical treatments.

"It was the valley of the shadow of death," he posted on Facebook in 2015, "but I feared no evil."

"Jesus is 'Plan A,' he explained. "There is no 'Plan B.'"

Carman began his musical career playing drums in his mother's band at age 15 and holds the world record for having the largest concert audience to see a single Christian artist. He set the record at Texas Stadium with more than 71,000 fans.

In addition to his music-related awards, Carman received the House of Hope Humanitarian Award for his positive influence in the lives of American youth in 2001. He was honored by the Gospel Music Association with induction into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

Billboard named him "Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year" on multiple occasions and his album "Addicted to Jesus" earned the distinction of Contemporary Christian Album of the Year. His recording "A Long Time Ago in a Land Called Bethlehem" was nominated for "Album of the Year" by the Recording Academy in 1986.

In 1985, the release of his first No. 1 song, "The Champion," solidified his place in music history and defined his career as one of endurance, grit, dedication and pure talent.

Matt Felts, Carman's manager, said in a news release, "When Carman resumed touring again a few years ago, he was concerned that no one would care that he was back. He was wrong. Every night fans packed out venues and his ministry was as powerful as it ever was. This world has lost a light in the darkness but today Carman saw firsthand the fruit of his labors."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.