Top Artist Award Caps Christian Music Star's Emotional Year

Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman was named "Artist of the Year" by the Gospel Music Association and honored with his 55th and 56th Dove Awards.

Thursday night was an emotional one for the 46-year-old music veteran, whose big win during the 40th GMA Dove Awards capped a rough year. Less than a year ago, one of his daughters, 5-year-old Maria Sue, died tragically after she was accidentally struck by a car.

Chapman said Thursday that he had "never had more emotions" than when he had to take the stage during the awards show and that he never wanted to give the acceptance speech that he did "under these circumstances."

"It was such a mixed bag of emotions and I kept thinking 'I gotta bring my wife up on stage with me mainly because if I fell apart I'd have someone to lean on,'" he said during the show, according to Christianity Today. "But this is one more encouragement of how loved we are and how prayed for we are!"

Since the death of Maria Sue, the Chapman family has been walking together on the path toward healing, and was not until more recently able to draw out "sweet memories" and no longer just tears when looking at photos of her.

It was on May 21, 2008, that Maria Sue, Chapman's youngest child and one of three adopted from China, was accidentally and fatally struck by a sport utility vehicle in the driveway of the family's Williamson County home in Tennessee. The driver, 17-year-old Will Franklin Chapman, was returning home and did not see his sister running toward him to greet him.

The tragedy pulled on the heartstrings of believers across denominations, many of whom were familiar with the popular Christian music star whose songs have become a staple in contemporary worship services and on Christian radio stations nationwide.

The accident also led Chapman to consider the idea of not returning to the stage. After the tragedy, Chapman stopped touring and declined interviews.

But Chapman decided later to continue with his U.S. concerts, wanting to go forward and take the opportunity to share his faith.

Amid the grieving, Chapman used the stage to share about his family's path toward recovery following Maria Sue's death and also appeared with his family in several televised interviews including "Good Morning America" and "Larry King Live."

Maria Sue's death also added greater meaning to his highly popular song, "Cinderella," a moving ballad that compels people to treasure each moment they have, particularly the ones they have with their children. Chapman had written the song prior to the accident, inspired by daughters Stevey Joy and Maria Sue.

Though initially Chapman and his band, which includes eldest son Caleb, "dreaded" singing the song when they got back on the road following Maria Sue's death, when they got around to it, Chapman changed the last part of the lyrics – as he had did Thursday night when he performed the song live during the Dove Awards.

Knowing that he'll one day dance again with his "Cinderella," Chapman changed the song's poignant last words from "... and she'll be gone" to "... but the truth is ... the dance goes on."

"Chapman's performance of 'Cinderella' brought the audience to tears and to their feet," commented GMA publicist Tricia Whitehead.

In addition to "Artist of the Year," Chapman also won a Dove Award for "Songwriter of the Year," adding to his record number of "Christian Grammys." Chapman has received more Dove Awards than any other artist in the 40 years of the Dove Awards show and has been named "Artist of the Year" seven times and "Songwriter of the Year" ten times.

Chapman is currently wrapping up his joint United Tour with close friend Michael W. Smith. The tour concludes April 30 in Paducah, Ky.

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