Sandi Patty is coming to Raytown this week to say “thank you.”
She could have picked any city in the region, but Kansas City and its ’burbs stand out in the Christian singer’s memory. The audiences are amazing.
“They’re very engaged and supportive,” she said in a recent phone interview.
Patty knows from audiences. She has five Grammys and dozens of Dove awards. She has sung at three presidential inaugurations. She appeared on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”
After all that, and despite her famous vocal range remaining in good form, she’s stepping away from the spotlight because “I have so much respect for the art form (music).” She said she doesn’t want to be a singer who is recalled as someone whose ability faded before she retired.
Patty, 59, is touring on her CD released in February, “Forever Grateful.” Her first national tour as a headliner was in the early 1980s. She garnered national acclaim after her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the ABC Statue of Liberty re-dedication broadcast on July 6, 1986.
Though she’s known for performing inspirational music, at the peak of her career she sold out mainstream arenas and concert halls. At one time she was the highest-paid singer in the Christian music industry.
When she divorced manager John Helvering in the early ’90s, her audience was discouraged. What followed nearly ended her career.
It was reported that Patty had an affair with a married backup singer, Don Peslis. Patty divorced Helvering and married Peslis in August 1995. Just two weeks into her marriage with Peslis, Patty admitted the previous infidelity to her church.
Asked if the stress caused a lapse of faith at some point, Patty said, “It was a tough season … but my faith grew very, very much. I didn’t always make choices that reflected that … so much was my fault. It (her faith) has grown really deeply,” she said.
She rebuilt her career with symphony appearances in the U.S. and abroad. If her life story sounds like it would make a book, it has. Her biography is “Broken on the Back Row,” in which she also discussed childhood sexual abuse.
Patty has a love of teaching and has worked with young musicians. Her advice: “Honestly, do music because you love it. Get a real job until you can make some money (in a musical career).”
In retirement Patty anticipates spending a lot of time with grandkids. She has a grandson, and more grandbabies are on the way. Grandchildren are a new chapter for Patty and husband Peslis; their blended family includes eight children.
Her current tour, which covers 90 cities, will continue through September. Asked if she and her husband would continue to make their home in Oklahoma after her retirement, she said, “I don’t know what that next season of our lives will look like.”
Elaine Garrison: 816-234-4384