With a series of albums dating back to 1992, Cindy Morgan earned a high profile as a popular Contemporary Christian recording artist. Her first album, Real Life, garnered six Gospel Music Association Dove Awards after its release; she also received the New Artist of the Year Award and a bright future seemed guaranteed. Although the songs’ lyrics reflected her Christian beliefs, Morgan stretched the bounds of traditional praise music. With her soulful voice and several dance- and R&B-oriented numbers, Morgan was compared to singers such as R&B star Anita Baker and pop singer Taylor Dayne.
Morgan emerged as a multimedia Christian entertainer in 2001 with the publication of her book Barefoot on Barbed Wire: A Journey Out of Fear into Freedom. Fans were surprised to learn that she had long suffered from almost debilitating fear, which had threatened to derail her career. She used her faith to overcome it, however, a success story that Morgan hoped would help others cope with life. “This book is about my struggle with fear, which I think is a very common problem with people, especially among young women,” she told the Calgary Sun. “I think I just kind of realized that if I could write something that would help or encourage someone in a small way, that’s what I would write about.”
Morgan was born on June 4, 1968, in the eastern Tennessee mountain town of Snake Hollow. Both of her parents were music lovers; her father had made a stab at a music-writing career before deciding to become an auto mechanic, and her mother often played the piano to calm her own anxieties. The youngest of six children, Morgan grew up poor. Like her parents, she found inspiration in music and began to write songs at the age of nine. By the time she was just 22, Morgan had already signed a recording contract with Nashvillebased Word Records.
Real Life, her 1992 release, was one of the most successful debuts in Contemporary Christian music history. As Billboard writer Deborah Evans wrote in her Higher Ground column in 1995, “Real Life painted Morgan as a contemporary Christian dance diva with a vocal style comparable to Anita Baker.” While the term “dance diva” was an unusual epithet for a singer in the Christian market, Real Life featured peppy, upbeat arrangements, with drum machines and keyboards complimenting Morgan’s rich voice. The album earned a half-dozen Dove Award nominations from the Gospel Music Association, and won for New Artist of the Year. Her place on the Christian music scene seemed assured.
With A Reason to Live in 1993 and Under the Waterfall in 1995, Morgan worked to make her music more personal. Although the arrangements still focused on polished studio productions, the singer wanted listeners to concentrate more on her vocal delivery and lyrics. “My obligation is to be true to what I am,” she told Deborah Evans. “That’s not a dance/pop diva. I’m a songwriter.” She continued, “Songwriting is more a part of me than singing is. I may not sing forever, but I’ll write forever.” Morgan’s popularity as a video artist was also recognized in 1995 when her appearance on the “I Will Be Free” clip won the Dove Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
In her fourth full-length release, Listen, in 1996, Morgan turned toward her roots with an album that featured a song with lyrics written by her father as the title track. Morgan herself ended up writing or cowriting all of the songs on the album, which resulted in “a passionate project that radiates intimacy—as if Morgan is singing directly to the listener,” according to a 1996 Billboard review. In promoting Listen, Morgan took the opportunity to honor her father by debuting his song at a Knoxville, Tennessee, concert, “I told the audience how he sacrificed his dreams for the good of our family,” she told Billboard in October of 1996. “And basically I said, ‘Daddy, it’s never too late for your dreams to come true.’ Then I made him stand onstage with me and accept the applause.”
After making management and producing changes following her first releases, Morgan entered a new phase in her personal life when she began a long-distance relationship with Canadian Christian writer Sigmund Brouwer. The two met in 1995 after Morgan’s record
Born on June 4, 1968, in Snake Hollow, TN; married Sigmund Brouwer (a writer), 1996; children: Olivia.
Released debut album, Real Life, which earned six Dove Award nominations, 1993; released album based on the life of Christ, The Loving Kind, 1998; published book, Barefoot on Barbed Wire: A Journey out of Fear into Freedom, 2001.
Awards: Gospel Music Association Dove Award, New Artist of the Year, 1993; Dove Award, Best Short Form Music Video, 1995; Dove Award, Best Special Event Album (with various artists), 1996, 1999, 2000; Dove Award, Best Long Form Music Video, 1999.
company asked her to act in a skit based on one of Brouwer’s books, which had been published by Word Entertainment. Brouwer, a prolific author of more than
40 Christian-themed books for adults and children, made an immediate impression upon Morgan, and the couple married in November of 1996. As she later told Today’s Christian Woman, “My career isn’t my life anymore. I’ve learned you can serve God without working yourself into the ground and that one way to serve God is to enjoy his blessings…. Getting married and moving [to Canada] have given me a balance I’ve never had before. When I was single, I was very driven.”
Morgan combined her personal and professional lives in 1997 with a music project depicting the final weeks in Jesus’ life called The Loving Kind, while her husband released a book covering the same topic in his novel The Weeping Chamber. Both had been inspired by a trip to the Holy Land, and the couple intertwined their projects by putting together a show that featured Morgan’s singing accompanied by readings from Brouwer’s book.
Although the couple was now one of the best known in Contemporary Christian entertainment circles, Morgan hoped that her work would reach a broader audience. As she told Billboard in 1998, “[The Loving Kind] is not about pressuring people into believing. It’s more of a historical account of the life of a great man who lived long ago.” Morgan also clearly wanted to become more of a crossover artist. “Much of Christian music is sung just to Christians. But Jesus wasn’t only in the church,” she told Today’s Christian Woman, adding, “I want to follow that lead. I’ve written a lot of songs that would appeal to a broader market, and I’d love to find secular pop and country musicians who’d be willing to sing them. I feel this would be a great opportunity to go out and minister to the world.”
Splitting their time between Morgan’s home in Nashville and Brouwer’s home in Red Deer, Alberta, the couple welcomed their first child, Olivia, in 2000. Along with marriage and motherhood, Morgan decided to confront some of the emotional turmoil that she had carried with her since childhood, when her mother would play the piano and read from the Bible late into the night to deal with her own problems. As an adolescent, Morgan felt like an awkward and overweight outsider, a combination that led her into a series of failed relationships before she met her husband. With a newfound confidence from her marriage and successful career, Morgan decided to write an autobiographical memoir in the hope of helping other young people cope with their passage into adulthood. “I don’t think God wants us to live, and not risk,” Morgan summarized the book’s message in an interview with Robin Parrish of the About Christian Music website. “I think God means for us not to be afraid, to not be fearful,” she said. “To take risks, and fall down, and to make mistakes, and to be human, and to be vulnerable about our weaknesses. To say, ‘I am weak, but I’m going to get stronger.” Published as Barefoot on Barbed Wire: A Journey Out of Fear into Freedom, the book appeared in early 2001.
Now recognized as a successful writer, singer, and entertainer, Morgan added two Dove Awards to her collection in 1999 and another one in 2000. She remained committed, however, to focusing on her music and its importance in carrying a Christian message to listeners. “Mainstream music’s great, and I listen to it, and I enjoy it,” she told Robin Parrish. “But in many cases, there’s no purpose to it… In Christian music, you have to be driven by your purpose, not by image.”
Real Life, Word, 1992.
Reason to Live, Word, 1993.
Under the Waterfall, Word, 1995.
Listen, Sony, 1996.
The Loving Kind, Word, 1998.
Best So Far, Word, 2000.
Elementary, Word, 2001.
Billboard, April 29, 1995, p. 32; October 19, 1996, p. 14; October 19, 1996, p. 61; March 7, 1998, p. 8; November 10,2001, p. 28.
Calgary Sun, May 16, 2001.
Marriage Partnership, Winter 1998, p. 104.
Today’s Christian Woman, September/October 1997, p. 38.
“Author Biography: “Meet Sigmund Brouwer,” Cool Reading, http://www.coolreading.com/alda.php3/sigmund/meet (December 14, 2001).
“Cindy Morgan Interview,” About Christian Music, http://christianmusic.about.com/library/weekly/aa080901a.htm (December 14, 2001).
Dove Awards, http://www.doveawards.com/history/keysearch.cfm (December 14, 2001).
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