The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

March 5, 2014

Jim Bailey: Experiencing an awesome family connection to a ragamuffin

Richard Wayne Mullins was born in Richmond. To his family, he was simply Wayne. The world knew him as Rich Mullins, contemporary Christian singer and songwriter.

To my son-in-law, Ron Roberts, he was Uncle Wayne, his mother’s brother. Thus we had a family connection at last month’s showing in Anderson’s Reardon Auditorium of the movie “Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins.”

Even more personal, our grandson Ronnie had a cameo – a three-second view from behind of a ragamuffin boy peering into a barn.

The full-length feature film tells the story of Mullins, who explored his giftedness through mounting degrees of success while living with all the demons and disappointments life has to offer. He died at 41 in a 1997 Jeep accident.

Two Anderson University alumni spearheaded the production, David Leo Schultz producing and directing and Michael Koch starring as Mullins.

The story pulls no punches detailing his strained relationship with a demanding father who resented the direction his son’s talent was taking him. A line from the movie goes, “I have five children – two sons, two daughters and a piano player.” Until his death he was unable to express himself candidly to his son.

Multiple Grammy and Dove award winner Amy Grant opened the door for Mullins, then a student at Cincinnati Christian University. She came across a demo of his song “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” and wanted to include it on a recording project. He headed for Nashville and a songwriting position that would metamorphose into a singing career.

From the outset, Rich Mullins would not be thrust into a strait-laced role, preferring to be himself and let his music point toward the goal. He struggled with addictions much of his life, even showing up drunk at the funeral of a mentor and college roomate’s father. His dressed-down clothing style raised a few eyebrows. In fact at one concert when he was trying to enter the venue a guard stopped him. “I’m Rich,” he explained. “I don’t care how much money you have, you can’t come in … oh,” stammered the guard.

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