Born Sandi Patty on July 12, 1956, in Oklahoma City, OK; daughter of Ron Patty (a minister of music); married John Helvering (a recording agent); divorced; married Don Peslis; children: Anna, Jennifer, John, Erin; stepmother to Peslis's four children. Education: Attended San Diego State University; Anderson College, B.A., 1979. Addresses: Record company--Word Records, 25 Music Sq., W. Nashville, TN 37203; website: http://www.wordrecords.com. Agent--William Morris Agency, 2100 West End, Ste. 1000, Nashville, TN 37203.
Sandi Patty has been called "The Voice" of contemporary Christian music. Gifted with a tremendous vocal talent that lends itself to a wide range of expression, Patty has enjoyed a diverse musical career. From ballads to pop to distinctive renditions of traditional gospel music, Patty bridges the gap between the secular and Christian worlds and ministers to her wide audience in a unique way. She has won five Grammy Awards and 39 Dove Awards.
Born on July 12, 1956, Patty made her singing debut at the tender age of two while singing "Jesus Loves Me" in church. Her vocal gift, apparent even then, increased dramatically over the years, and she soon performed regularly at small gospel churches around the country with her two younger brothers in the family singing group, the Ron Patty Family. As a young adult, she studied voice at San Diego State University before transferring to Anderson College in Indiana to major in music. While at Anderson, Patty earned money as a backup singer doing jingles for Juicy Fruit gum and met her future husband, John Helvering. It was Helvering who proved instrumental in encouraging Patty to perform and made arrangements for her to record a custom album entitled For My Friends. Her name was misspelled "Patti" on the album, and she used that version of her name professionally for many years. After hearing the album, a recording executive offered her a contract in 1979. There was no stopping "The Voice" then. Sandi's Song, Patty's first contractual release, appeared in 1979 and was followed by a number of personal appearances which spread the word of her music ministry nationwide. In 1980, Patty and her husband put together a small tour, quickly realizing that music was becoming far more than a part-time occupation. When she was asked to sing backup for the Bill Gaither Trio, Patty became convinced that her future lay in the music field. Her 1982 album Lift Up the Lord, a tightly produced and distinctly contemporary-sounding Christian album, won two Dove awards and featured such outstanding songs as the lively title track and "How Majestic Is Your Name," balanced against such balladic powerhouses as "They Could Not." Her 1983 album Sandi Patty Live: More Than Wonderful, certified gold in 1985, garnered additional Dove awards and a Grammy for best gospel performance. Subsequent albums have been nominated for musical awards each year, and Patty was named Billboard 's Inspirational Artist of the Year for four years in a row.
Patty's first major solo tour occurred in 1984 with concerts in the one hundred largest cities in the United States. The tour corresponded with the release of the Songs From the Heart album and drew more than half a million fans, confirming once again her position as the leading figure in popular Christian music. Her 1986 album Morning Like This earned her another Grammy, as did her duet with Deniece Williams on the song "They Say." As a whole, Morning Like This offers a striking musical balance: the title track embraces the mystery and joyful declaration of Easter morning, while the single "Love in Any Language" reaches well beyond the varying sects in Christendom; hand-clapping, foot-stomping favorites such as "Hosanna" and "Let There Be Praise" complement the inspirational moments of songs like "In the Name of the Lord."
Striving to keep pace with changes in musical tastes while not disappointing fans who had begun to equate her with operatic high C's and ringing, emotional crescendos, Patty blazed new trails with her 1988 album, Make His Praise Glorious. Still present here are hallmark ballads such as "In Heaven's Eyes" and powerhouse hits like "No Other Name," but the popular "Love Will Be Our Home" contains rocklike guitar licks--something fans might not have expected. Other departures are evident in the catchy "Come Let Us Worship," which found favor with fans of electronic percussion, and "Someone Up There Loves Me," featuring heavy brass aimed at jazz buffs.
Patty's broad appeal as a performer is not hard to understand. Her tremendous vocal talent bridges the gap between her Christian audience and the secular world. ABC-TV included her inspirational recording of "The Star Spangled Banner" during its Liberty Weekend Celebration, and NBC-TV invited her to participate in the network's Christmas in Washington special with former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. She has also performed on numerous daily television programs, including The Tonight Show, The Today Show, and Good Morning America, on specials such as the Grammy Awards show and the CBS special We the People, at the 1988 Republican National Convention, and at the opening ceremonies of the 1988 presidential inauguration. In addition, after four years of planning, Patty released Sandi Patty and the Friendship Company in 1989, a children's album that is destined to become a classic.
Patty continued to sing, tour, and record, but in 1992, personal difficulties sidelined her career. During a separation from her husband, John Helvering, she had an extramarital affair with Don Peslis, whom she later married after divorcing Helvering. Although this would not affect the careers of most musicians, in the world of Christian music, the scandal cost her listeners. For the next several years, she went through counseling and reconciliation with her church, as well as with the Christian press and her fans. Although some continued to boycott her music, many fans eventually returned to support her. In 1997, Patty told Susan Hogan-Albach in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "I've been dealing with it as truthfully and honestly and openly as I can." She added, "I think my experiences can be a source of encouragement for others. Life is not perfect, and we're all going to make mistakes, but God will still love us. That's my message." Iin 2000, Patty told Tim Harlow in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Living on the other side of a difficult time in life, God is giving me another chance." Realistically, she told Julia Duin in the Washington Times, "I am sure there are fans who will never buy my music again. That is a loss."
In February of 2004, Patty was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Also in 2004, Patty considered taking her career in another direction when she decided to run for a position on the school board in her home town of Anderson, Indiana. She told Robyn-Denise Yourse in the Washington Times, "My passion is the schools and I want to be part of something that will be good for the community." However, a month later, she dropped out of the race, realizing that her career in music would not give her enough time to devote to the position if she won.
Despite her national exposure as a performer, Patty remains refreshingly sincere and unchanged. Her dedication remains with the Lord and to her husband and four children. The music, in all its excitement, remains a ministry. As she noted in People: "I don't tell people 'You have to believe this,' but rather, 'Hey, the things that Jesus taught and continues to teach flat out work, and this is where I've been and learned and maybe it fits where you're at right now.' Music is a powerful tool. We should use it to help shape positive values." Perhaps what makes Sandi Patty's work so accessible and successful is her sincerity. Most critics agree that Patty's ability to cross musical boundaries and spread the Christian word to a wide and varied audience will insure her longevity in the field.
by Meg Mac Donald and Kelly Winters
Sandi Patty's Career
Christian music singer and recording artist, 1979--. Has toured throughout the United States.
Sandi Patty's Awards
Thirty-nine Dove awards for gospel artist, female vocalist, and inspirational album of the year, all from the Gospel Music Association, 1982-90; Grammy awards for best gospel performance of a duo or group, 1984, 1986, and 1987. best gospel performance, female, 1987, and best pop gospel album, 1991; named inspirational artist of the year by Billboard magazine, 1986-89; inducted into Gospel Music Hall of Fame, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Sandi's Song Benson, 1979.
- Love Overflowing Benson, 1981.
- Lift Up the Lord Benson, 1982.
- Sandi Patti Live: More Than Wonderful Impact, 1983.
- The Gift Goes On Word, 1983.
- Songs From the Heart Impact, 1984.
- Hymns Just for You Helvering, 1985.
- Morning Like This A&M, 1986.
- Make His Praise Glorious A&M, 1988.
- Sandi Patty and the Friendship Company A&M, 1989.
- The Finest Moments A&M, 1989.
- Sandi's Song Word, 1990.
- Hymns Just for You Word, 1990.
- Songs from the Heart Word, 1990.
- Another Time, Another Place Word, 1990.
- More Than Wonderful Word, 1991.
- Love Overflowing Word, 1991.
- Lift Up the Lord Word, 1991.
- >Libertad Me Das Word, 1998.
- All the Best--Live! Word, 2001.
- Take Hold of Christ Word, 2003.
- Billboard, September 9, 1995, p. 13; July 24, 1999, p. 11.
- Contemporary Christian Music, April 1988.
- Grand Rapids Press, January 10, 2004, p. A8.
- People, December 2, 1985.
- Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), December 6, 1997, p. 5B; November 18, 2000, p. 7B.
- Washington Times, March 26, 1998, p. 2; February 23, 2004, p. B05.
- Holland Sentinel, March 12, 2004, http://www.hollandsentinel.com/stories/031204/lif_031204006.shtml (July 2, 2004).