For 25 years, Bryan Duncan has spread the Christian gospel in his songs, concerts, and 17 albums — released both as a solo artist and a member of Sweet Comfort Band. Duncan’s music is a mainstay on contemporary Christian radio and has earned him a long list of awards from the industry. He was nominated as male vocalist of the year in the 1994 and 1995 Dove Awards, for example, and named Christian Research Report, male vocalist of the year in 1993.
Baby-boomer Duncan was born in Ogden, Utah, on March 16, 1953. While in college in 1973, he was a founding member of the trio Sweet Comfort, which featured drummer Rick Thomson, bassist Kevin Thomson, and Duncan on keyboards and vocals. The group quickly developed a regional following in Southern California and, in the course of a dozen years together, climbed to the top of the Christian music charts. One writer called Duncan’s music “infectious, groove-oriented, blue-eyed soul delivered with passion, emotion and precision.”
In 1996, guitarist Randy Thomas joined Sweet Comfort and the band recorded its first song, Golden Ages, for the Marantha Music label collection Marantha V. The following year, Marantha released the group’s self-titled debut, which received airplay on Christian radio and on mainstream stations in Southern California. After that first album, Sweet Comfort signed with Light Records and released five albums between 1979 and 1983. Three songs from 1979’s Breakin’ the Ice reached Christian radio’s Top 20. Two years later, Campus Life, Billboard and CCM all named Sweet Comfort’s album Hearts of Fire one of 1981 ’s Top 10 Christian recordings. With the release of Perfect Timing in October 1983, it was time for Duncan to go it alone, however. Sweet Comfort announced that it would break up and, in early 1984, said goodbye during a three-month farewell tour.
Duncan launched his solo career by signing with Ray Ware Artist Management in June 1984. The following year, he toured Australia and Light Records released his solo debut album Have Yourself Committed. The title song as well as “Child’s Love” reached the Christian music charts. In the last half of the 1980s, Duncan toured regularly, released videos, and recorded the albums Holy‘Rollin’, Whistlin’in the Dark, which spawned four singles, and Strong Medicine —which received solid airplay and ranked 16th in sales among 1989’s Christian albums.
Duncan then moved to the Myrrh record label and released The Anonymous Confessions of a Lunatic Friend in 1990. The album delivered five singles which topped the Christian music charts. In 1992, Duncan achieved similar success with the record Mercy— which Christian Research Report (CRR) named Album of the Year, On the strength of Mercy, Duncan was voted CRR’s male vocalist of the year for 1994 and nominated for the same honor by the Gospel Music Association. His follow-up album, Slow Revival, spawned four more No. 1 hits on the Christian music charts. In 1995, Myrrh released Unidos En El, a Spanish language recording of Duncan compositions, and Christmas is Jesus —on which Duncan performs with a choir and full orchestra. The record also kicked off a Christmas tradition of popular tours on which the singer performs with local choirs and orchestras.
In 1997, Duncan released the upbeat Blue Skies, which he described as the third part of a trilogy that included the records Mercyand Slow Revival. The trilogy and recounts Duncan’s journey from the recognition of his need for God, through his efforts to deal with that need, and finally to his arrival at spiritual peace. “Blue Skies is saying, ’Hey, there’s a clearing in the sky, ’” Duncan told interviewer Bob Lupine. “I mean, it doesn’t always stay stormy. And sometimes you can’t help help but have good things happen to you, even of you’re not trying. It’s just a matter of recognizing them when they’re there…. One of my favorite songs on the record is ’After This Day is Gone.’ I likesinging it, because in the chorus it goes, ’I believe after this day is gone, long after all the damage is done, there’s still a place in your heart for me.’ That song is me reaffirming that God loves me, because it’s so easy for me to talk myself out of believing that.”
Born March 16, 1953, in Ogden, UT; married, wife’s name Jodi; children: Brandon, Devin.
Awards: Named Christian Research Report’s male vocalist of the year in 1993; twice nominated as male vocalist of the year in Christian music industry’s Dove Awards.
Addresses: Home —Riverside, CA. Agent —Ray Ware Management, 1102 West Main St., Franklin, TN, 37064.
Writer Douglas McKelvey called Blue Skies “a portrait of a man who has stumbled upon a reservoir of peace, faith and joy even in the midst of his perseverance…. Running the gamut from plaintive, heartfelt ballads to soulful mid-tempo numbers to upbeat tunes reminiscent of James Brown in his heyday, the songs… reveal a consummate vocalist and performer.” A review in CCM Update described Blue Skies as one of Duncan’s best records in years and said it “moves beyond the blue-eyed soul that’s become his trademark… to dig deeper into R&B and jazz influences—think equal parts Smokey Robinson and Sting.” Reviewer John M. De Marco, writing in Christian Retailing, said the album “is more organic, less slick, and features fewer effects” than past Duncan releases, while “showcasing his straight-ahead natural voice. The album’s lyrical content is intimate.”
Have Yourself Committed, Light Records, 1985.
Holy Rollin, ’ Light Records, 1986.
Whistlin’ in the Dark, Modern Art Records, 1987.
Strong Medicine, Modern Art Records, 1989, Modern Art Records.
Anonymous Confessions of a Lunatic Friend, Myrrh, 1990.
Mercy, Myrrh, 1992.
Slow Revival, Myrrh, 1994.
Unidos En El, Myrrh, 1995.
Christmas is Jesus, Myrrh, 1995.
Quiet Prayers: My Utmost for his Highest, Myrrh, 1996.
Blue Skies, Myrrh, 1997.
With Sweet Comfort Band
Sweet Comfort, Maranatha Music, 1977.
Breakin’ the Ice, Light Records, 1979.
Hold On Tight, Light Records, 1980.
Hearts of Fire, Light Records, 1981.
Cuttin’Edge, Light Records, 1982.
Perfect Timing, Light Records, 1983.
Christian Retailing, Nov. 11, 1996.
CCM Update, Nov. 25, 1996.
Additional material used in this profile came from interviews with Bryan Duncan conducted by Bob Lepine and Douglas McKelvey and published on the Internet.
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