Born c. 1952 in San Jose, CA; married and divorced; remarried, wife's name Sandi. Addresses: Record company---Fair Oaks Records, P.O. Box 1688, Fair Oaks, CA 95628. Management---Ray Ware Management, 251 Second Ave. South #5, Franklin, TN 37064. Website---Randy Stonehill Official Website: http://www.randystonehill.com.

Randy Stonehill is a singer-songwriter who is considered a pioneer in the Contemporary Christian music genre. His career has been compared with such mainstream secular artists as James Taylor and Paul McCartney.

Stonehill, who grew up in San Jose, California, began playing guitar at the age of ten. He was successful in area talent competitions and put together his first band at the age of 15. By 1969 the 16-year-old Stonehill was interested in pursuing a career in music. His girlfriend's brother, Larry Norman, was based in Los Angeles and was doing well in the new Jesus music genre as the lead singer of the group People. Norman extended an invitation to Stonehill to help him break into the music business. Stonehill accepted, but with one condition, as related by Mark Powell in the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music: "As long as you promise not to tell me about Jesus---I'm sick of hearing it."

Norman took the young Stonehill under his wing and into his house. The household was indeed a Christian one. Stonehill started to shift his views about Christianity after being arrested on drug charges. It was in the kitchen of the Norman home on August 12, 1970, that Stonehill became "saved," or "born again," while praying with Norman.

Jesus Music Movement Disciple

Together, the pair began performing Christian folk-rock in coffeehouses, churches, and on college campuses. This music would become the cornerstone of the so-called Jesus music movement. This phenomenon was a result of musicians trying to span the wide chasm between worldly rock 'n' roll and their Christian ethics. They wanted to play Christian rock music. Certainly an anathema in the 1970s, but he, Norman, and others broke ground for what would become the Contemporary Christian music genre.

In 1971 Stonehill was cast as the lead in the Christian musical Show Me! This role led to other collaborations and opportunities for his songwriting. With Keith Green and Todd Fishkind, he co-wrote "Your Love Broke Through," which was recorded by Phil Keaggy. Stonehill's own "I Love You" was used for A Time to Run, a film distributed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a well-known ministry of the Reverend Billy Graham. The song was also covered by Larry Norman.

To get the funding for their first recordings, Norman and Stonehill sought the help of singer and actor Pat Boone, who provided the funding needed for their projects. The result was Born Twice, a 1972 collection of acoustic and live performances. Because the pressing was so limited, it became a collectors' item. Get Me Out of Hollywood, which was unreleased until 2000, was recorded in 1973. It is considered his "secular" album as it consists of mainstream cover tunes with some originals, such as "Puppet Strings" and "Jamie's Got the Blues."

Reached Career Pinnacle

With Norman's help, Stonehill recorded Welcome to Paradise in 1976. It is considered a classic of the genre. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music refers to it as "what is unanimously regarded as one of the greatest Christian albums of all time."

The Sky Is Falling, released in 1980, would be the last project he and Norman would work on together for nearly 20 years. The pair had a falling out that became quite public and nasty. The two would eventually reconcile, but it took years. Stonehill, as of 2003, simply wrote on his website that the two had "gone [their] separate ways." According to Powell, "The exact reasons for the fracture may not be relevant (or knowable), but the obvious concern involved objections to what was perceived as Norman's heavy-handed control of artists connected to Solid Rock.... The deterioration of their friendship and prolonged lack of reconciliation would become something of a scandal within the Christian music scene."

This period had ups and downs for Stonehill, both professionally and personally. The Sky Is Falling was not successful. He also divorced. By the 1980s, however, Stonehill was well established as a leading Christian musician with a string of recordings on the Myrrh label to prove it. It was a prolific period for the singer-songwriter, who was releasing a new project just about every year during the decade. These included Equator, (1982), Celebrate This Heartbeat (1984), Love Beyond Reason (1985), and Return to Paradise (1989), which were both commercially and artistically successful. Stonehill continued recording and performing in the 1990s with Wonderama (1991) and Lazarus Heart, recorded in 1995 as Stonehill on his own label. A best-of collection, Our Recollections, was released in 1996.

Another Decade of Performing, Recording

With the new century, Stonehill embarked on some interesting projects that were marked departures. These included a 2001 children's album called Uncle Stonehill's Hat, developed for fans who were now coming to his performances with their children. Fans came to label his sillier songs with a satirical bent his "Uncle Rand" songs. He released the project on his own Holy Sombrero label. "We're not sure how God might grow the vision for this aspect of my music," he said on his official website. "[W]e're really casting our bread upon the water as it were." He told ChristianityToday.com the project had "come very naturally for me."

Edge of the World, released in 2002, was his first album of the decade. This project gathered old and new songs in an attempt to replicate Stonehill's live performances. ChristianityToday.com called him "one of Christian music's best live entertainers ... the quintessential troubadour."

It also marked the first time he and Norman had recorded together in years. Although Stonehill had released Where the Woodbine Twineth: The Cottage Tapes, Vol. 1, a collection of early recordings made with Norman in 1999, they did not start performing together again until a surprise reunion in 2001 at a Christian music festival. Stonehill wrote on his website that Norman's participation on this particular project represented "a whole new chapter in our friendship."

He now lives in Seal Beach, California, with his wife, Sandi, and a menagerie of pets---six dogs, four cats, and a tortoise---he calls "the zoo." As noted in the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, Stonehill---with Norman, Keaggy, Daniel Amos, and Marsha Stevens---remains "one of the only early Jesus music stars to be still recording and performing thirty years after they and a handful of others created what would come to be called 'contemporary Christian music.'"

"I enjoy the gift of these days more fully than I ever did as a young Turk who could see the road stretching out endlessly in front of him. I had the tendency to take it for granted," said Stonehill in an interview with Assist Ministries found on CBN.com. "I am more passionate about my days and what I do with them.... I am enjoying my life more than I did when I was younger and it sped by with a blur."

by Linda Dailey Paulson

Randy Stonehill's Career

Moved to Los Angeles, mentored by Larry Norman, 1969; began career as singer-songwriter with Christian message, 1970; recorded debut Born Twice with financial backing of Pat Boone, 1972; recorded Welcome to Paradise, 1976; dissolved partnership with Norman, 1980; began recording with Myrrh label, 1980s; released "best-of" Our Recollections, 1996; reconciled with Norman, 2001; released Edge of the World, 2002.

Randy Stonehill's Awards

Gospel Music Association Dove Award, Children's Music Album of the Year (with others) for Sing Me to Sleep, Daddy, 1998.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

BooksOnline

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 6 years ago

This has been an interesting part of my life story...getting to know Randy Stonehill. I never thought he would be sitting at my kitchen table or that he would be putting on a private concert for my mother! It is amazing the wonderful things the Lord does and how he brings things right to our doors!