James Blackwood: End of an Era?
Written by Ken Horn, managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel
They called him Mr. Gospel Music. But he was much more than that. James
Blackwood passed away on February 3 of this year. With the passing of the last
of the original Blackwood Brothers Quartet, it would be easy to consider this
the end of an era. Music has changed since James and the Blackwoods were
trailblazers in music ministry.
The first Christian record I ever bought was a Blackwood Brothers album.
As I grew up there was little I wanted more than to be like the Blackwoods. That
inspiration led me to sing in two traveling quartets when I attended Bethany
College. It also made me grateful for the opportunity to get to know James
Blackwood in recent years.
James won countless awards during his lifetime, including nine Grammys
and seven Doves. But, according to the biography his family prepared for his
funeral, his “most coveted award” came when he received the General
Superintendent’s Medal of Honor at the 2001 General Council of the Assemblies
of God in Kansas City, MO. I was privileged to congratulate him right after he
left the platform.
James was disturbed at some of the trends in contemporary Christian
music. It was important to him that Christian music remain pure and true to the
gospel – that it remain ministry. He told me that his measure of gospel music
was if it clearly glorified God. If it didn’t, it’s not really Christian
music and should not be represented as such. I find it hard to disagree with
He passed this outlook on to many, including his oldest son, Jimmy. When
I went through a lengthy illness more than a decade ago, it was Jimmy’s music
that I played over and over to lift my spirits and reinforce that God was in
control. Talent can produce good music, but only anointing can produce music
that is ministry. This is the Blackwood legacy.
James was a man of God, but he didn’t live his life without regrets. He
told me he never could understand the reason God allowed the plane crash in 1954
that took the lives of two of the quartet members – his nephew R.W. Blackwood
and bass singer Bill Lyles. “When I get to heaven I want to find out the
purpose of that plane crash,” he told me. “There are some things we just
don’t understand.” By now he has had a sweet, long-awaited reunion.
I hope that the passing of James Blackwood is not the end of an era. I
pray that today’s singers and musicians will take their cue from him and make
music that doesn’t just sell, but touches lives for Jesus.
Goodbye, James. We’ll meet you in the morning.
Reprinted from the June 9, 2002 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Used by permission.