Kathy Troccoli is an artist on a quest. A smoky-voiced torch singer with a talent for songwriting as well, Troccoli came on the scene in the 1980s as a Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) star with powerful pop appeal. Interrupting her career several times to think about the direction of her career, Troccoli underwent several creative and personal metamorphoses.
Like vocalist Amy Grant, to whom she has often been compared, Troccoli made a successful foray into pop music, releasing two secular albums. One of these, 1991's Pure Attraction, contained her top pop hit "Everything Changes." Troccoli later returned to Christian music, recorded an album of pop standards with fellow CCM artist Sandi Patty, and then emerged as an author and lecturer. "I have to home in on what Kathy Troccoli needs to do—what God has called her to do," Troccoli told the Roanoke Times & World News, in the midst of one career turning point. The statement might serve as the credo of her entire career.
Kathy Troccoli was born in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on June 24, 1958. Her Italian Catholic family wasn't particularly religious. "The Bible in my family was a book on the end table that was never touched," she told the Roanoke Times & World News. As a young woman Troccoli enjoyed singing. Troccoli told the New York Times that at family gatherings, "They'd always say, 'Sing the Godfather theme.'" She made her debut on stage as a junior high school student, singing a selection of Carole King songs at a talent show.
In 1978 a co-worker at a summer recreation job furthered Troccoli's journey into faith by giving her a copy of the New Testament, and answering the numerous questions that Troccoli asked. Troccoli was faced, she told the Roanoke Times & World News, with deciding whether Jesus was "a nice guy and a pretty good liar or who he said he was." She chose the second path, and began attending church, where she made friends with a Christian rock band from Nashville that came through to perform. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Troccoli began performing music in the CCM genre, which was just beginning to take shape during that time, and the band members talked her into moving to Nashville, an area as central to Christian music as it is to country, in order to record. Troccoli later told the New York Times that she experienced "total culture shock" in her new home.
Some felt that the young artist's voice might be too sensual for Christian audiences, and a new label, Reunion, was formed to showcase Troccoli's music. In 1982 her debut album, Stubborn Love, appeared, and sales topped 100,000 copies, making the album the biggest-selling debut by a a female Christian artist that had appeared up to that time.
With Stubborn Love and two more releases, Heart & Soul in 1984 and Images in 1986, Troccoli silenced the doubters and became a major presence on Christian music radio. Then, in the ascending phase of a career that some felt might have rivaled that of the similarly pop-oriented Amy Grant, Troccoli called a five-year halt to her recording activities and moved back to New York's Long Island. "I absolutely loved what I was doing," Troccoli explained to Billboard. "It's just that I had a passion for other things. I was just doing, like, a quarter of what I thought I should be doing." After her break from recording, Troccoli eased back into the music business as a session vocalist for pop chanteuses Mariah Carey and Taylor Dayne, and in 1991 she signed a distribution deal with the RCA label and released Pure Attraction.
Though it has often been called a pop release, Pure Attraction contained a number of songs that were aimed at Troccoli's Christian audience. The lyrically indirect references to faith that were common in Christian music at the time, often casting religious experience in the language of romance, helped Troccoli walk a tightrope between religious and secular audiences, as Grant had also done for some years. Sometimes the two worlds collided; Troccoli once had to cancel a concert in Evansville, Indiana, after she had prepared an adult contemporary concert, but arrived in town to find that that show was being billed as part of an abstinence campaign aimed at local teens.
The major thrust of RCA's marketing for Pure Attraction was centered on its thoroughly mainstream pop single release, "Everything Changes." The song, written by the enormously successful pop tunesmith Diane Warren, was handpicked for Troccoli by RCA president Joe Galante, who had previously worked for the label's Nashville division. "He played it, and I knew I could own it," Troccoli told Billboard. "This was something I wanted to say." The single reached the top five on the charts, landed Troccoli on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and garnered her a host spot on the VH-1 video cable channel. She sang in major arenas, opening for star acts like Michael Bolton and the group Color Me Badd. Troccoli released another pop-designated album, 1994's Kathy Troccoli, which featured another Warren composition, "Tell Me Where It Hurts." The 1997 release Love & Mercy targeted both pop and Christian audiences. Once again, however, Troccoli would change her direction.
"I was doing something that seemed successful to everyone else," Troccoli told the Omaha World-Herald. "But it wasn't fulfilling to me." Once again, a move from New York to Nashville figured in Troccoli's plans. She released the album Corner of Eden in 1998, showing both a new commitment to Christian music and a new emphasis on her own songwriting and musical abilities. "I've written nearly every lyric on it, and I feel like I could play it for anybody—Sting, Barbra Streisand, Don Henley—and they would absolutely notice the musicianship," Troccoli told the Grand Rapids Press. The album included "A Baby's Prayer," an anti-abortion anthem that won a Dove Award for Inspirational Song of the Year.
Troccoli continued her recording career, releasing two more CCM albums on the Reunion label and adding a greatest hits collection in 2003. The 2002 release The Heart of Me was honored with a Grammy award nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. She also developed a new side of her musical personality in Together, a 1999 collaboration with Sandi Patty that featured renditions of George Gershwin's pop standards by Troccoli and a selection of Judy Garland songs by Patty.
In the early 2000s Troccoli added yet another arrow to her creative quiver: she became a writer and lecturer. Her speaking engagements before organizations such as Women of Faith and Heritage Keepers also included musical performances. Troccoli and close friend Dee Brestin co-wrote a book titled Falling in Love with Jesus, which was released by Word Publishing in 2001. Troccoli told the Omaha World-Herald in 2003 that "I've finally found my slot in life where I feel I can soar."
For the Record …
Born on June 24, 1958, in Brooklyn, NY. Education: Attended Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA, and Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, NY.
Made recording debut, Reunion Records, 1982; major star in CCM genre, mid-1980s; took five-year break from recording, 1986-91; released partially secular al bum Pure Attraction, 1991; became writer and lecturer, early 2000s.
Awards: Dove Award, Inspirational Song of the Year for "A Baby's Prayer," 1998.
Addresses: Agent— Baugher & Co., Ste. 200, 422 Main St., Franklin, TN 37064. Website— Official Kathy Troc coli Website: http://www.troccoli.com.
Stubborn Love, Reunion, 1982.
Heart & Soul, Word, 1984.
Images, Word, 1986.
Portfolio, Reunion, 1987.
Pure Attraction, RCA, 1991.
Kathy Troccoli, Reunion, 1994.
Sounds of Heaven, Reunion, 1995.
Love and Mercy, Reunion, 1997.
Corner of Eden, Reunion, 1998.
A Sentimental Christmas, Reunion, 1999.
Love Has a Name, Reunion, 2000.
The Heart of Me, Reunion, 2002.
Greatest Hits, Reunion, 2003.
Albuquerque Tribune, February 15, 1997, p. C2.
Billboard, May 7, 1994, p. 16; May 10, 1997, p. 10.
Evansville Courier, September 13, 1997, p. A4.
Grand Rapids Press, February 1, 1996, p. B5; June 5, 1998, p. B1.
Houston Chronicle, December 27, 1997, p. 8.
New York Times, January 5, 1992, p. 7.
Omaha World Herald, February 27, 2003, p. 11.
Roanoke Times & World News, May 24, 1996, p. 1.
Sarasota Herald Tribune, March 20, 2000, p. E1.
Today's Christian Woman, May 2001, p. 83.
"Kathy Troccoli," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 1, 2004).
—James M. Manheim