I first heard about Luke Garrett in 1985.
The stories floating around Dallas then were of an astounding young voice one had to hear to believe. In June of 1986, I heard it for myself, on a recording session for the Disabled American Veterans. The rumors were right. A couple months later, I grouped Luke with Chris Machen and Sammy Davenport to record the original version of a song that is still going strong today – “I Have Seen the Light.” And thus began my musical relationship and lifelong friendship with a most wonderfully unique and talented person.
In the years that followed, I arranged and produced three full CDs for Luke. In addition, I tapped him to sing in choral groups and carry the weight of some of my most challenging solo writing. In short, Luke was something of a vocal phenomenon. A true artist. He always sang in the moment. (This is also how he lived.) Luke brought the words he sang to life, and life, for Luke, was an adventure that never settled in one spot for very long. As a result, Luke never sang a song the same way twice.
A little more than a year ago, Luke called me up. We had fallen out of touch, but reconnected instantly. (This was Luke’s way.) He wanted to do another recording. It had been years since he released a CD. “Would I be willing to produce it?” he asked. I answered “yes” before he could finish the question. Then he said the best part. He wanted every song on the record to be something I had written.
Now, for a world-class singer to record an entire project of any writer’s music is about the best compliment the writer could ever receive. I told Luke nothing would make me happier.
The project was independent. We had no deadline. Our desire was to make the best record we could and Luke wanted to keep a “gentlemanly” pace. (No kidding, that’s how he put it.) In no particular hurry, Luke selected about a dozen songs, and we began: Four songs with Luke and piano in July. Then another six songs with rhythm section in November. After the New year, we wrapped up the tracking on another few and finished the orchestra and group vocals in late March.
All that was left to record were Luke’s final vocal tracks on nine songs, which we were scheduled to record next week. The dates are still marked on my calendar, perhaps in an act of denial on my part, but they are not going to happen.
A little more than a week ago, on June 10, Luke died from a sudden and massive heart attack.
Looking back, there were warning signs. Luke had not felt well. He was tired and had even awoken one night with chest pains. We had moved the vocal sessions from May to June so he could rest up and be in good voice. Still, the call from his brother, Doug, that Saturday morning was a shock. “Robert,” he said, Luke is gone.” Honestly, I am still struggling to believe it.
Luke left behind an amazing musical legacy. In addition to capturing some of the finest vocal performances ever in sacred or secular music, Luke also penned some wonderful songs. That’s right – Luke was also a talented songwriter. If he had only written the one song, “As If I Were the Only One to Love,” it would have been evidence enough of his writing abilities. But there were others. Lots of them. “Magnify.” “All Praise Rising.” “It’s Still the Cross.” And on and on.
People are asking me what will become of our unfinished project. (We have only four finished vocal performances.) I don’t yet have an answer. I am still coming to grips with the fact that one of my favorite singers and best friends is gone to be with the Lord. Yes, Luke is in a better place. And yes, I’ll see Luke again one day. But right now, like all Luke’s family, friends, and fans, I am just trying to cope with the loss.
It was my distinct privilege and pleasure to have worked with such a talent to create recordings that will continue bless the Church and lift up the Kingdom of God for years and years to come. I thank God for introducing me to Luke Garrett.
And I thank Luke for letting me come along on the ride. I will treasure the music and the friendship as long as I live.