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Those We Lost in 2020

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

2020This is the time of year we see news-feature lists of celebrities and other notables who passed away during the last 12 months. We thought it might be appropriate to remember some Christian music artists and others who entered eternity during this year who might not have made those other lists.

*Dr. Rance Allen – The gospel music singer-songwriter was a founding pastor at a Toledo, OH church, yet had a decades-long recording and performing ministry. His first album with his Rance Allen group came in 1972.

One of his long time friends was Grand Rapids-native pastor/music artist Marvin Sapp. Upon learning of Allen's death, Sapp noted that Allen was present at many of Sapp's milestone moments. "From the Stellar Awards giving me an award for (Sapp's song) "Best in Me" to my Inaugural Bishop's Banquet (in Grand Rapids). Every year I came to your church just to celebrate you as bishop, pastor and (your) musically anointed gift." Allen died Oct. 31 at age 71.

*Jonathan Pierce – The singer-songwriter was part of numerous Christian music groups. The Texas-native was with the large ensemble Truth before joining the famed Imperials in the early 1990s as lead singer. He was part of the Gaither Vocal Band during the late '90s. Pierce also had several solo albums. He died May 9 following heart surgery at age 49.

*Henry Slaughter - In his early days, the young talent played piano for the Southern gospel Weatherfords. Next he was recruited in 1964 and became the first keyboardist for the newly-formed Imperials where he stayed for several years. For decades he recorded, performed and toured with his wife Hazel. Upon his death, his daughter Amanda wrote, "He once said something like, 'When I leave this world all I want to be remembered of my life is that I played in the band, wrote a few songs, and sang in the choir.'" He died Nov. 13 at age 93.

*Aaron Wilburn – A Southern gospel singer-songwriter who sang with The Happy Goodman Family in the 1970s but emerged primarily as a songwriter. He wrote several #1 Southern gospel hit songs for various other artists. Wilburn was featured in many of the Bill Gaither Homecoming music videos. He died Nov. 26 at age 70.

*Richard Penniman –The singer-songwriter is better known as "Little Richard." Of course, he is most remembered for his soul, R&B and Rock'n'Roll music and showmanship, but he did several gospel albums during his career. In the late 1950s he attended Oakwood College, a Seventh Day Adventist school in Alabama. He was ordained as a minister and recorded the 1959 gospel album "God Is Real." Despite his moving freely in and out of Rock'n Roll and other musical genres, he always returned to gospel. His last recording was a song for a tribute album for Southern gospel singer-songwriter Dottie Rambo.

In another nod to his spiritual and musical roots, the artist is buried on the grounds of the Bible college he once attended, now called Oakwood University. He died May 9 at age 87.

*Charlie Daniels - Yes, this fiddle-playing artist's signature song is the lightning- quick ballad "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." But he did several gospel music albums during his career, including "The Door," which won a 1994 Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Country Album of the Year. A later song ("Somebody Was Prayin' For Me") won a Dove three years later. When not out on tour, Daniels attended World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, TN. "Typically he would go to the Saturday night late service: fewer people and less commotion," recalled church member Cles Holbrook. "He would sing there from time to time, too." Daniels died July 6 at 83.

You can see an interview of Daniels by his pastor recorded two years ago online.

And locally,

*Donald F. Pullian – The long-time Grand Rapids realtor had a heart for gospel music and expressed it through his dedication and direction of area gospel choirs and for worship in the church. During his musical tenure he directed church choirs at the former Bethel Pentecostal and Lighthouse Full Life Center. He died Feb. 16 at the age of 56.

*Maury Lehmann – For many years an executive at Zondervan Corporation's music division, Lehmann was also a song leader of numerous area hymn sings. He was an encourager to all. (See our report of his memorial service online ). He died June 30 at age 96.

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: -Mlive.com (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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