Could They Make It? Entry 6: 4Him

It’s time to bring back our “Could They Make It?” series, examining whether performers from other genres could make it in our genre.

Numerous commentators have compared Brian Free & Assurance’s recent style to that of Dove Award-winning CCM quartet 4Him. There has been speculation as to whether BF&A could fill a spot on CCM / Adult Contemporary radio and in the genre similar to theirs.

But we haven’t asked the question the other way around. 4Him disbanded in 2006, but has done some reunion dates since. Should they get back together, could they make it in Southern Gospel?

Here’s an early video of 4Him:


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61 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I saw this group when they were still traveling with Truth. They sang a southern gospel song with the tenor singing high at the end and the crowd of TEENAGERS went crazy. I then saw them shortly after they left Truth and they were fantastic. They did several hymns and some acapella, along with Contemporary. They were great. Daniel, if you haven’t done Phillips Craig and Dean I would put them next, since four of their songs have been done by a southern gospel artist.

    • I didn’t get into this in my post, but my personal take on 4Him is that they have everything they would need to be incredible in this genre . . . except a good bass singer. 🙂

  2. Honestly, I had trouble getting into some of 4Him’s songs, particularly the bridges. Parts of a song would be great, but then there would be this whole section somewhere that just reeked of cheese. As for their sound, I think they belong in AC, but that’s just my opinion.

    Love this particular song, by the way. I like the modulation on the bridge, although for some reason I find the tenor’s work kind of annoying right there.

  3. First of all, great song choice for the video, Daniel. That’s one of my favorites by 4Him.

    These guys are great, I’ve seen them in concert a couple of times. As far as fitting in SG, I think they’d fit at the progressive end of the spectrum with BFA very well. Mark Harris (of 4Him) is a great writer, and has had a couple of cuts on recent BFA albums already. BFA also covered 4Him’s “Over The Horizon” on their “Acappella” CD. Their later stuff was probably a little too far toward soft rock, so to fit in SG they’d have to return to their more “pop” sounding roots like the song above, but they’d make an immediate splash.

    • “Their later stuff was probably a little too far toward soft rock, so to fit in SG they’d have to return to their more “pop” sounding roots like the song above, but they’d make an immediate splash.”

      I’d concur totally.

      • I will say this: I could potentially see Andy Chrisman (the tenor) as being a good SG fit in a quartet—whether 4Him or somebody else. Sort of a cross between Brian Free and Jonathan Pierce. He’s not my favorite tenor ever, but he’s got a good, strong tone, and a good range.

      • Actually, Christman sang quite a few leads that I heard. Marty Magehee sang a lot of the tenor parts (at least on the songs I remember hearing including this one.)

      • Arg, you can see I am used to typing Christ. 🙂 Chrisman that is.

  4. The group as a whole? No. This song? Yes indeed.

    • I certainly don’t dispute that the song could make it . . . but why do you think the group couldn’t?

  5. As a litmus test, have them turn to page 116 in the Church Hymnal and sing “Gettin’ Ready to Leave This World”, contrapuntal parts and all.

    • ^ Comment of the day! 🙂

      • Yeah, I never have much to say on these posts because I’ve never heard of any of the groups, so this would be my blanket response to all “Would They Make It?” posts. 😉

    • Haha! LOVE it, Brian! Great comment!

  6. Love 4Him. Have seen them several times.

    The first time I remember hearing them, they were on a Billy Graham crusade, singing “Living Water, Bread of Life,” which is on the same album as “Where There is Faith.” That’s still one of my very favorites of theirs.

    I don’t hear BF&A though…sorry.

    • Really? Because I could definitely hear those two groups singing each other’s songs. BFA could tackle “Where There Is Faith,” and I’d like to hear 4Him do a number like “I Believe God.”

      • Probably because I’m not a big BF&A fan. Too squeaky.

      • Agreed. And that makes sense—when you like one group and don’t like another, you’re like “What??” when people start comparing them. Nevertheless, I think there is some similarity stylistically speaking. Maybe you can think of 4Him as an improved version of BFA. 😉

    • That is another of my favorites. Those two are the only two off of the first CD I can think of offhand. I first discovered them though when they did Basics of Life which is still possibly my favorite.

  7. Definitely… IMO, 4Him could EASILY do a SoGo album, and(with a decent Bass) hit the top of the charts….

    I remember emailing Andy Chrisman back in 1999 actually, asking him to PLEASE try recording a SoGo album to see what they could come up with… unfortunately, I lost the email exchange that went back for forth(when I formatted my computer in 2003:() yes, I’m crazy…. but I have every email send and received since 2003 in my Outlook. 🙂

    BUT he told me that he didn’t think 4Him would ever do a “fully SoGo” album, but that they were actually going to be doing a “Hymns” album that I may be interested in…. it came out the following year, and I have enjoyed it immensely! It’s actually a very good album if you haven’t heard it.

    • Hmmmm… ’tis okay, but they change it up A LOT. Too much contemporary styling for my taste. Together they have a good blend, but individually they’re a little weak—not really strong enough to make it in SG if you ask me, except perhaps the tenor and maybe Mark.

      • It’s NOT a lack of strength, but artistic flair/preference….. on this song they are going for the soft sound… don’t worry, they can ALL blow the roof off if need be.

  8. If we’re speaking of their earlier sound, yes, I think they could easily fit into the SGM genre. They had a much more classic sound back then. Their later projects got a little too rock-sounding and progressive for my personal taste. If they found themselves a good bass singer, I think they would be a great fit!

  9. Nah…they’re too stable to be sg. 😉

    • Yeah, the same four guys stay together for I think 15 years or so, that is practically unheard of. 😉

      • 15 years??? If you count truth, it was more like 20 years…. Yeah….. way too long for SoGo!! 😉

      • Did I say I didn’t like groups with minimal turnover? Au contraire, I much prefer groups that keep the same 3/4/5 guys umpteen years in a row! 🙂

      • Quartet-man – In CCM, they don’t (as often) hire a new singer – they just quit!

      • Yeah, I was just having some fun.

  10. Could any of the songs they recorded be successful on Southern Gospel radio? Probably not…even though some of their songs have been interpreted by SG artists.

    Could they have success if they took at stab at singing SG style? Absolutely.

    • I think you’ve nailed it David. Their song choices have largely been squarely within the AC/pop genre. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t adapt if they chose. I do think they would need to lose some of the contemporary affectations though. SG generally involves a more “straight-up” singing style. They’d have to discipline themselves a bit.

  11. I grew up with Kirk Sullivan. His dad and uncles had a SG quartet called the Kensmen. Those boys all have similar SG roots in their heritage. Heck yes they could do SG if they wanted.

    The SG tune they used to do when in Truth was called He Built A Bridge and was written by Mark harris. Back when my brothers and I were doing SG we recorded the song. The 4HIM boys enjoyed our arrangement. (At least thats what they said to our face.) BTW-Andy did do many tenor parts but it was Marty Magehee that did the tenor on that song.

    Anyhoo-because I am in a good mood-if you click this link you can hear a free version of the McLaughlin Brothers version of the tune: [EDIT, 6/4/12: Broken link removed.]

    • Yeah, I was aware that others would probably do high harmonies if Marty took at lead at least as I don’t recall arrangements off the top of my head where the tenor had melody with harmonies beneath. Not saying it didn’t happen with them, but I don’t recall. However, I haven’t listened to as much stuff as many have.

      • Also, Marty had tenor on Basics of Life and Chrisman wasn’t lead on that one. That is what makes me think officially Chrisman is the lead (although they swapped leads) or one of the two leads and Marty would be technically in the tenor slot. I might be wrong though.

      • They are confusing for us SG folks if we are trying to peg them in certain slots. They just didnt have slots that each one sang. They all sang different parts all the time. But you are right on that Andy and Marty had the higher voices. Kirk had the lowest timbre to his voice but would be a lead or baritone at lowest in any SG quartet.

      • Even the Imperials had somewhat assigned parts (but later seemed to not so much distinguish between lead and baritone).

        As far as 4Him, I realize they don’t so much designate, but I was going towards what I consider their normal or probably most often position and their known ranges.

        Kirk’s voice on 4Him drew me to the group. I thought he was reminiscent of Michael English at the time, but with a weightier voice to some degree than Michael sang in back then. His is probably my favorite voice of the group. I always assumed that Mark took the lower notes most of the time. Maybe that is going back to Basics of Life.

  12. I have been a fan of 4him since The Basics of Life CD. The Heartland Boys covered that song and the versions were pretty similar. The Basics of Life CD and The Ride are a couple of my personal favorites. As to weather they could make it in southern gospel, I think they could but they couldn’t be held to a traditional 4 part harmony mold. Harmony would be closer and probably something that the older generation wouldn’t be crazy about. I think the early Gaither Vocal Band has a lot of similarities to 4Him and the CD that comes to mind is A Few Good Men. Some of that sounded like the 4Him Over the Horizon style of stuff. If you look at history certain styles of music follow others. Christian Contemporary follows the pop culture. Southern Gospel follows mainstream country in a lot of cases. And southern gospel follows contemporary and mainstream country. It might not follow it right away but after several years it usually does. That is why we have southern gospel acts doing old Imperials, 4Him, Phillips Craig and Dean, Mercy Me, and Nichole Mullen. A good portion of Ivan Parkers repratiore is contemporary songs that are a few years old. My Redeemer Lives, I can only imagine, and Thank You are the ones that come to mind immediately. Mark Lowry did Chris Rice Untitled Hymn Come to Jesus. Talley Trio has covered some Selah and Avalon stuff. I would love to see a southern gospel act be such forward thinkers that they are leaders in the music industry as a whole.

    Here is a youtube video of 4Him singing “southern gospel” in thier Truth days. Just be forewarned I am giving a major cheese alert. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiajMiJvz5g&feature=related This is not something that I could listen to for very long without getting annoyed.

    • Good point! I have enjoyed all of the songs you mentioned by all artists you mentioned. Guess sg will accept ‘contemporary-ish’ songs by more traditional singers. Interesting perspective. Seems like more Chris Rice, Avalon, etc. stuff would pop up in sg.

      • Chris Rice’s lyrics, especially lately, are often a little to esoteric or vague for our genre. But Mark Lowry did record “Untitled Hymn / Come to Jesus.” I’ve heard several Avalon songs that I thought could work in our genre.

      • Oh yeah, in general I would say Chris Rice is totally different from SG. He’s the quirky singer/songwriter type—sometimes too quirky for my taste. It’s more the big harmony groups like 4Him, PCD, Avalon, or even Point of Grace that would have a chance of getting something cut in SG. It’s not that they’re more “traditional” it’s just that their harmony style is more suited to a gospel feel.

      • I will say this: I believe Dianne Wilkinson said, when asked if there was a song she wished she had written, that it would be Chris Rice’s “Come to Jesus.” That, I believe, is a very high compliment indeed. And in this case, I think it’s fully due.

      • She did indeed say that; I was the one doing the interview.

        At one point, I think I had three of Chris Rice’s Rocketown projects; it may have been four. And I can’t think of another song that, between lyrics and music, would have fit on an SG project.

      • Of course not. I just thought that one comment was fascinating. I think Rice himself has never topped that one.

      • I agree on both. That is an incredible song, and I’ve never heard him do anything else close! 🙂

      • I can think of a few that come close. But none that equal or better it. Have you ever heard “And Your Praise Goes On” or “Tell Me the Story Again?” If you like “Come to Jesus,” those two are both really excellent songs in a similar vein.

      • Welcome to Our World doesn’t get a mention?
        Just as good, better even, than Untitled Hymn.

      • I like that one too. Forgot that one. I still think “And Your Praise Goes On” is something of a hidden gem. Truly beautiful, but almost nobody has heard of it it seems…it was the album closer for his debut.

      • Janet – can’t believe I forgot that one. Yes, it’s on par with Untitled Hymn.

  13. We actually just cut “Basics of Life” for our new album and another Mark Harris song “One True God”. 4 Him was a huge influence on us.

    • Fascinating – this will be interesting to hear!

  14. I couldn’t get the video to come up on this computer (I’ll try at home later).

    But, is this the group that sang the song ‘Future Generations’ (I think that was the name.)

  15. 4Him is still one of my favorites and yes, they could easily be a sg group! Their songs were ones of substance that really stick with you. I agree that Phillips, Craig and Dean could make it big in sg also.

    Daniel, do you know why more contemporary-ish groups never seem to have a song that crosses over to the sg charts? The other genres seem to do that a lot – pop, country, etc. Seems like it would benefit each area of Christian music?!

    • I’m guessing it’s because their view of SG is roughly akin to the view shown in the parody song linked above – they probably don’t send singles to SG radio just because they don’t want to.

  16. He will go unnamed, but I think I heard a certain GVB alumnus sang with these guys at some point. Is that true?

    • Steve Green sang with Truth, not with 4Him.

  17. You think SG audiences would go for McGeehee’s current look and sound?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z9JFk4RuwI&feature=related

    • Whoa. What happened to Marty? Now he looks like Mac Powell’s twin brother…

      • Marty was always the one with the “Heavy Metal” side to him…. look at the songs he wrote while with 4Him…. a very “dark” sound…. DEF. not a SoGo sound in the least….

  18. “Marty was always the one with the “Heavy Metal” side to him…. look at the songs he wrote while with 4Him…. a very “dark” sound…. DEF. not a SoGo sound in the least….”

    True. Which is a bit ironic because his voice (imo) is most suited for SG.