Richard Wayne Mullins (October 21, 1955 – September 19, 1997) was an American Christian music singer and songwriter born in Richmond, Indiana. On September 19, 1997, Rich Mullins and his friend Mitch McVicker were traveling on I-39 north of Bloomington, Illinois to a benefit concert in Wichita, Kansas when his Jeep flipped over. They were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the vehicle. When a passing semi-trailer truck swerved to avoid the Jeep, Mullins, who was too injured to move out of the way, was hit by the truck and died instantly. McVicker was badly injured but survived.
His funeral was open to the public and had a massive gathering. He is buried in the Harrison Township Cemetery in Hollansburg, Ohio, alongside his baby brother who died as an infant and his father.[
Between 1974-78, Mullins attended Cincinnati Bible College. He worked in a parking garage to help pay for his schooling. From 1975 -1978 he was also the Music Director and Youth Director at Erlanger United Methodist Church in nearby Erlanger, Kentucky.
In the mid-1980s he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to begin his professional recording career.
Mullins is best known for his worship songs "Step by Step" (later incorporated into his hit single "Sometimes by Step") and "Awesome God", both of which have been embraced as modern classics by many Christians. Some of his albums are also considered among Christian music's best, including Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth (1988), The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume One (1991) and A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band (1993). His music has been covered by many artists, including Caedmon's Call, Five Iron Frenzy, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, John Tesh, Chris Rice and Third Day.
In 1988, Mullins moved to Wichita, Kansas where, in 1991, he enrolled as a student at Friends University and lived with his best friend, David Strasser (a.k.a. Beaker). He graduated with a B.A. in Music Education on May 14, 1995 . After graduation, he and musician Mitch McVicker moved to a Navajo reservation in Tse Bonito, New Mexico to teach music to children. They lived in a hogan at the reservation until his death.
Rich Mullins is also remembered for his devotion to the Christian faith, which was often an inspiration to others. He was heavily influenced by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). In 1997, he composed a musical called Canticle of the Plains, a retelling of the life of St. Francis set in the Old West.
His biggest hits were the praise choruses Awesome God and Step by Step. Three of his albums are considered among Christian music's best: Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth (1988), The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 1 (1991) and A Liturgy, a Legacy & a Ragamuffin Band (1993). The posthumous The Jesus Record include one disc of demos he had recorded shortly before his death, and a second disc of recordings of the songs completed by The Ragamuffin Band, several with guest vocalists.
Mullins often called St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) his hero. He modeled his life after St. Francis by showing great compassion towards the poor and adhering to a vow of poverty. In 1997, he composed a musical about the life of St. Francis set in the Old West titled Canticle of the Plains.
Mullins was seen as an enigma to the Christian music industry. Often barefoot, unshaven, and badly in need of a haircut, Mullins did not look like the average American Gospel music writer. He was very much at home among the non-Christians, and unafraid to name his own sin and inadequacies in public. This baffled some in the American Christian culture where he seemed an odd member. His lifestyle was unquestionably marked by devotion and discipline, yet his simultaneous refusal to subscribe to contemporary Christian "niceties" made him a bit of an uncomfortable presence in the Christian music culture. Although he achieved a significant amount of success on Christian radio, he never received a Dove Award until after his death.
Unlike most artists in Contemporary Christian music, Mullins did not consider his music his primary ministry, but rather a means to pay his bills. Instead, his ministry was the way he treated his neighbors, family, enemies, and those outside the church. Taking a vow of poverty, he accepted a small church salary and spent the last years of his life on a Navajo reservation teaching music to children.
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