Gaither, Bill [William J. ]
- Darlene Graves
- and Michael Graves
(b Alexandria, IN, March 28, 1936). American gospel songwriter, performer, producer, and publisher. He grew up on a small farm in Indiana and graduated from Anderson College with a major in English and a minor in music. He went on to receive a master’s degree in guidance and counseling and met his future wife and song-producing partner, Gloria Sickal, while both were teaching high school. Gaither started singing gospel music as a child and in 1956 formed the Bill Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and his sister Mary Ann. He started his own publishing company in 1959. He continued to perform and compose while a teacher at Alexandria High School and in 1961 formed the Gaither Music Company to publish his works. After their marriage in 1962, Gaither and his wife wrote their first major song, “He touched me,” which was a significant hit by 1963. He re-formed the Bill Gaither Trio with Gloria and Danny, and in 1967 left teaching to devote himself to gospel music on a full-time basis. He signed with the Benson Company in 1969 and established Paragon Associates in 1971. By the 1970s the trio had become one of the best-known white gospel groups in the United States. Danny left in 1977 and was replaced by Gary McSpadden, and the group expanded to include backup singers and brass and rhythm accompaniment. Gaither received his first Dove Award in 1969 as Songwriter of the Year. Of the Gaithers’ several hundred songs, the most popular is “Because He Lives,” the Gospel Music Association’s song of the year in 1971. Other hits include “There’s something about that Name” (1970), “Let’s Just Praise the Lord” (1972), and “It is Finished” (1976). Gaither and his wife published Hymns for the Family of God (Nashville, 1976), which became a best-selling hymnal. Since 1991 he has also led the Gaither Vocal Band, a quartet that has included some of the most popular singers in gospel music.
In the same year Gaither gathered a group of southern gospel singers, quartets, and family groups to sing and recollect about their ministries and times together in an informal setting along with the Gaither Vocal Band. It proved to be a surprisingly tender time of fellowship. Gaither had photos and candid videos taken of the event and eventually decided to edit the material for public viewing. The subsequent video Homecoming was widely successful and additional recordings were anticipated by fans. By the early 2010s there were more than 100 Homecoming videos, after the extended Homecoming group concert had taken on various configurations and taken place in concert halls, on cruises, and in other large venues across the nation and around the world.
Gaither and his wife are recognized as a significant force in gospel music around the globe as writers, producers, and performers. Numerous books and articles have been written by and about them. Among other accomplishments and awards, Gaither has won three Grammy Awards. He has also produced the television program The Gaither Music Hour, which has run on eight different cable networks. In 2000 ASCAP recognized the Gaithers as the Christian Songwriters of the Century, and in 2002 they were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
- Because He Lives: the Stories and Inspiration behind the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither (Grand Rapids, 1997)
- with J. Jenkins: Homecoming: the Story of Southern Gospel Music through the Eyes of its Best-Loved Performers (Grand Rapids, 1997)
- with K. Abraham: It’s more than the Music: Life Lessons on Friends, Faith, and What Matters Most (Frederick, MD, 2003)
- D. Cusic: The Sound of Light: a History of Gospel and Christian Contemporary Music (Milwaukee, 2002)
- J. Goff: Close Harmony: a History of Southern Gospel (Chapel Hill, 2002)
- M. Graves and D. Fillingim: More than Precious Memories: the Rhetoric of Southern Gospel Music (Macon, GA, 2004)