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Music event producer Bill Carter on Don Light and the power of gospel music

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Bill Carter has produced the four Johnny Cash Music Festivals, not to mention many Gaither Homecoming Southern gospel music extravaganzas organized by genre luminary Bill Gaither.

But Carter, a former Secret Service agent whose music experience also includes managing artists like Reba McEntire and legal representation for the Rolling Stones, was also asked by the late Don Light to put a gospel music program together for his memorial at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Ford Theater.

The revered Nashville talent agent, who died June 17, had established the first gospel music booking agency and co-founded the Gospel Music Association, and also discovered Jimmy Buffett.

“Don was a legend in the music business,” says Carter. “The Ford Theater was packed: Every music executive was there to pay respect for a Music Row legend. You don’t see a lot of people have that kind of respect. His lifelong friend Ray Stevens opened with ‘You Are So Beautiful,’ the Oak Ridge Boys sang two hymns, the Goodman Revival—featuring the remains of the [legendary Southern gospel group] Happy Goodmans—sang, The Isaacs did ‘It is Well With My Soul’ and of course, Vince [Gill] ended with ‘Go Rest High on the Mountain.’ There was also a video from Jimmy Buffet.”

Light, says Carter, was “a great guy who thrived on helping people.”

“I talked to him about dying and he expressed thoughts about not wanting a funeral. ‘If you were to do a memorial for me, I would only want gospel music,’ he said. Those songs that Don would have wanted, other than ‘Go Rest High’ and Ray Stevens’ song, are hundreds of years old and were written to lift the spirit of someone suffering a great loss, and that’s what we did at that great memorial.”

“When people get down and tragedy comes into their life they turn to hymns or gospel music,” continues Carter. “That’s what it’s for: At a time of loss, to turn to that music to inspire you and give you faith to carry on. Music that means so much."

For Carter, then, "it’s a blessing to be associated with Bill Gaither and Johnny Cash, whose music revives people’s spirits and helps them so much.”

[The Examiner wrote the Foreward to Bill Carter's memoir Get Carter--Backstage In History From JFK's Assassination To The Rolling Stones.]

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