I was walking into a Christian bookstore as my friend was walking out. She was clutching a new purchase and smiling big.
“I got Carman’s new release!” she said.
We were teenagers, and though I didn’t say it, I thought, “Carman? I’m over it.” Carman did not belong in my carefully curated buckets of cool.
But listen. Carman shows up in one of my very favorite childhood memories.
My parents hosted a neighborhood VBS when I was in grade school. My brothers and I invited all the kids we saw playing outside, and when the time came, they packed our front porch for the program kick-off.
Now, in this neighborhood, rap and hip-hop were popular genres, obvious from the regular appearances of cruising Buicks that shook from bass waves and emanated rat-a-tats and angsty voices. I wonder if that put it in my dad’s head that Carman's music would be just the thing to start the evening with the kids.
Or maybe my dad just understood that kids like things loud, fast, and lively.
Whatever the case, he was right. There we were, music blaring, feet stomping, kids shouting, and my dad as loud as any of them: “Who’s in the house? J. C.!”
About twenty years later, my dad was raking leaves when a minivan stopped in front of the yard. Darrell stepped out. He had been one of the boys at the VBS.
“Mr. Turner, I just want to thank you for doing the Bible camp all those years ago. I don’t know if you know this, but there were thirteen of us boys who ran around and grew up together in the neighborhood. Eight of them are dead now.”
His point was, life wasn’t easy for the families in the neighborhood. The little VBS was a bright memory for Darrell. It was something that made him feel loved, a token of the gospel he could carry into adulthood. He himself now had a family of his own, attended church, and seemed well.
I wish we could have done more for the neighborhood. But I’m glad we did something.
And I’m glad we had Carman’s music to help us.
Remembering Carman (Carmelo Domenic Licciardello), January 19, 1956 - February 16, 2021.
P. S. My dad now tells me he also played Carman's stuff cause he liked it.