Ronnie Milsap's Gospel Music
By Shannon Woodland with Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Over the years, Ronnie Milsap sold over 35 million records and won seven Grammy awards. Most people know him for the songs that made him a star – songs like, What a Difference You Made in My Life and Any Day Now. He’s made his mark in country, soul and pop music.
Ronnie has always wanted to return to the music that shaped his life – gospel music, the music he loved singing in church, that connected him to God; but the hits got in the way until now.
Scott Ross: You were on a roll?
Ronnie Milsap: The formula worked, it worked; but I never got to do a gospel album. Never.
Ronnie: You know, Scott, so many of these songs I knew as a child.
Scott: I was going to ask you that. For you, is it more than just the gospel songs? Is there some spiritual meaning behind that? Is there a relationship with God, with Christ, or are you just a church guy making a gospel album?
Ronnie: I am a Christian. I know I am a Christian, knowing that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.
Scott: Is there a moment in time that happened for you? Did it evolve?
Ronnie: It was something that happened to me when I was 12-years-old.
Scott: In that little church in North Carolina?
Scott: What, you heard the preacher?
Ronnie: Yes, I heard the preacher and I knew I was saved.
Ronnie grew up in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. He was born with congenital glaucoma. His parents believed his blindness was a curse from God. They took him from one church revival to the next, hoping God would bring sight to their son. His parents divorced, so his grandparents took him in and raised him. At the age of six, he was sent to Raleigh to attend the state school for the blind. It was there he discovered his musical talents.
Scott: How do you do that: to play a guitar, to sit at a keyboard and find the keys? That’s a God given gift.
Ronnie: It is. I learned when I started to study piano that I could play by ear. I could hear a song on the radio a couple of times and hear the song and the lyrics and sing it for you after a couple of plays.
Ronnie was a stand out in school, making the honor roll all the way through. He was also a musical prodigy, excelling on the piano and violin. He hoped to pursue a career in music, but well meaning school officials frowned on the idea.
Ronnie: My counselor said, “No, no, no; you can’t do that because if you become a musician you’ll wind up out on the street. You’ll become a failure; and more than that you’ll be a liability to the state. I said, “OK, I’ll take this academic career you guys are wanting me to do and become a lawyer. I’ll do that.”
One night at a concert, Ronnie got the rare privilege to go backstage and meet the legendary Ray Charles. Ronnie asked Ray for advice.
Ronnie: There was a piano in the dressing room and he said, “Well, play me something.” So I went over and played him three songs and he said, “Well son, you can be a lawyer if you want to, but there’s a lot of music in your heart and if I were you, I’d follow my heart and do what it tells me to do.”
Ronnie took that advice and never looked back.
Ronnie: I’m a Christian man that lives it everyday; believing somebody will look and live by example.
Scott: That’s the best way.
Ronnie: I think so.
Scott: What does a person who’s never seen, a blind person, see? What do you see? You’ve never seen a guitar, you don’t see a keyboard, but you know your way around a keyboard.
Scott: You’ve never seen your wife.
Scott: What is it you see?
Ronnie: On the screen of my mind, it’s usually depending on who you’re with. When I’m with my wife, I know she’s a beautiful woman. I know that, and more than that, it’s what she is inside. She’s beautiful inside; she loves music like I do. That’s the thing that brought us together and probably keeps us together.
Ronnie and Joyce have been married for 43 years. They have one grown son and three grandchildren. So, with the support of family, friends and his fans, Ronnie realized his life long dream, recording his first gospel album, Then Sings My Soul.
Scott: You’re a blessed man.
Ronnie: Yes. Absolutely, and I thank God for the blessings in my life.
Scott: Well, unless something miraculous happens between now and then, there’s a little scripture that says, we would then see Jesus.
Ronnie: Yes. Yes.
Scott: So, that day will come.
Ronnie: I know that, I know that and I think I’m going to be there. I don’t see here on this side; but I will see on the other side. I know I’ll get to see. I know I’ll get to walk those golden streets and I’ll get to see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; and I’ll get to see the Lord. Oh yes I will.
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