Kenny Marks, born Kenneth Michael Marks, November 6, 1950, Detroit, Michigan, has performed on 6 of the 7 continents world-wide over his music career.
His family came from Yugoslavia with the surname Makrovich, but his parents changed to the name Marks when he was born.
Kenny Marks five albums relate to everyday life. "I like to call my music vertical with a horizontal connection", says Marks. His driving rock, with shades of Springsteen and Adams, is music with heart, passion and energy. His first album 'Follow Him' was released on Myrrh Records in 1982.
With his second album, 1984's 'Right Where You Are' Kenny began to find his own definitive style as an artist and fulfil his desire to sing about relationships.
Growing up in Detroit, Marks studied classical piano as a kid and learnt to play guitar when he was 15. He tried a group with some guys in high school, then went away to a university on the East Coast. His classical background is reflected on a track from his latest album 'Another Friday Night' called 'You Made A Difference For Me' probably one of the most unusual songs that he has ever recorded.
Spirituality in music
"It's a very personal statement about how the Lord, throughout my lifetime in everything I have done, day-in and day-out, has made the biggest difference for me," Marks says.
Marks feels that relationships are the focus of his music. "It's what I feel deep inside my heart that I can talk about. I'm a struggler. I struggle like everybody. So my music isn't up in the clouds. It's down here, where we're all at. I feel I'm able to sing about that from my heart. "I get a lot of letters from people all over the world like: 'Dear Kenny, I wish that you could think about how we feel, like how single people feel'. And then they tell me how they lost their boyfriend or their girl-friend. Somebody writes me and says: 'I lost my husband'. I want to be a Christian who can address and speak to these difficult things." "It's funny," he continues. "Recently somebody approached me and said: 'can I talk with you?' So I went outside and talked with him. This guy told me his wife just left him and he's really lonely. It's a big strong guy on the outside, who's crying on the inside, and he doesn't know how to deal with it. And so I try to take five minutes to say something to encourage. I think this is what Christian music should be."
Jeannie and Johnny
Jeannie and Johnny, the fictitious Franklin High School couple created by Marks have made an appearance on 'Attitude* (1985) and 'Make It Right' (1987). "Growing Up Too Fast" was their story, as two individual kids who were dealing separately with high-speed emotions and biological impulses. In "The Party's Over" from 'Attitude', we see Jeannie and Johnny meeting at a party, then taking their passions over the limit in the back seat of Johnny's car. And suddenly, sadly, the consequences of their actions are seen in the resulting pregnancy that robs them of their carefree teenage lifestyle. So Jeannie and Johnny are married, trapped in a grown-up world with a baby they didn't mean to create. The saga continues on Kenny's latest album, 'Another Friday Night', with the song, "Next Time You See Johnny". By now, Johnny's left Jeannie with the boy, who's old enough to hurt over Daddy's leaving, and innocent enough to hold forgiveness in his heart for Johnny.
Talk about being interconnected. It's the "Jeannie and Johnny trilogy" - or everything Mellencamp didn't tell you about Jack and Diane. And their story rings so painfully true that you find yourself thinking 'these are real people...' which, in a way, they are. Or at least they could be. Recording and producing 'Another Friday Night' was no easy job, since Marks wanted the dynamism of a live-concert reflected on the record, an effort he succeeded in.
Produced by Bubba Smith, the recording was mixed by Marc DeSisto, best known for his work with U2, Amy Grant, and Don Henley - and the album was more than two years in the making. Considering Mark's preoccupation with relationships, it seems a bit strange to find the song "Nobody Else But Jesus" on the new album which is pure gospel, with almost no horizontal elements in it. Isn't this reneging on the Marks manifesto? "There are other songs that say...I need you to tell me you love me tonight." He pauses. "Do you see what I'm saying? If you only take one song -yeah, that song does say 'there's nobody else like Jesus'. Somebody could say: 'hey, you've got a song here that says 'The Party's Over'. Do you really mean that, the party's over?' No. It's an idea. One song is one song. I hope that people can look at all my songs and see life.
"Some Christian performers sing only about the vertical. We should ask what this means too. It has to have meaning. I hope to do both, so that it's balanced. "So many times we put artists out that don't know what they're doing yet. They're 21, 22 years old and they look good and they smell nice," says Marks, still sweating after the soundcheck. "And so we put them out there. What are they gonna say, what do they start talking about? I'm still not the greatest singer in the world, but at least I know what I want to say."
Kenny Marks - Guiding Principle For Music - '5 Es'
Entertain- Music should be enjoyable…something that is capable of pleasing a wide spectrum of people.
Encourage- Music should lift the spirit and encourage people in their lives.
Enlighten- Music should ‘open doors & windows’ in people’s hearts, minds, and spirits.
Enhance- Music should build up the work of the Church.
Enlist- Music should draw others to become involved in the work of the Gospel worldwide.
Background concerning songs written by Kenny Marks
The Four Songs That Tell The Story Of Jeannie & Johnny
"Growing Up To Fast" "The Party's Over" "The Next Time You See Johnny" "Fire of Forgiveness"
The first time I sang about Johnny & Jeannie was on the "Right Where You Are" CD…"Growin' Up too Fast". The song talked about the challenge of experiencing things to early in life and the consequences of it.
The next album was "Attitude" and the featured song was "The Party's Over". I told the story of Johnny & Jeannie falling in love, having sex, having a baby, and things completely falling apart. I shot the video for "The Party's Over" in Los Angeles with very cool footage of the band in a live club rockin hard…hot and sweaty.
"The Next Time You See Johnny", for the CD "Another Friday Night ", was probably the impactful video I've ever done. I used the imagery of fire, candles, matches lit, fireplace, huge outdoor bonfire etc. to drive home the truth of the 'fire of forgiveness always burning bright". The small boy misses his father and dreams about them getting back together. This simple yet powerful imagery is the heart cry of many children and adults from broken families. The truth of God's forgiveness touches our hearts so deeply…we can bring that truth into our own lives and use it as the power to forgive others.
"Fire of Forgiveness" is the 4th and final song in this group of 4 songs. It's the reflection of Johnny looking back on his life …"My testimony…all the bridges I have burned…". While the names of Johnny and Jeannie are not mentioned in the song, it is the final piece about them.
The song "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight" is a true story. My band and I were touring the East Coast and we used a sound & lighting company out of Philadelphia for the tour. This was about six months before the "Make It Right" CD was released. After the very first concert on the tour, a young guy named Richard, who was running lighting for the tour, came up to me to talk. It was late, I was hot, sweaty, tired, and really thinking about the next 12 days of concerts. He said that he had never heard music like mine before...cool rock, but with a powerful message. I said thanks. He said, "Can I ask you a favor, Kenny"?. I said yes, of course. He said "Would you say a prayer for me tonight"? And I did. Something simple, like "Lord, You brought Richard and I together on this tour and You, Dear Lord have a reason for it. Bless us all, give us a powerful and significant time together, in Jesus Name, Amen"!!!
During the next 2 weeks I learned that Richard was a talented, yet complicated person. He had a lot of heartache and sadness that was palpable. You could feel it. One afternoon he asked me to climb up into the huge truck he was driving for the tour, (filled with sound & lighting gear). He played a couple of songs that he had written on the cassette player in the truck. Sad, but interesting musically. I gave him some pointers and gentle critique of his music, we laughed, and that was it. About 2 days later the tour ended and we flew back to Nashville. I was home for about 24 hours when my telephone rang. It was a youth pastor outside Philadelphia calling to tell me that Richard took his own life. How sad, it was so devastating. I hurt so deeply for him. "You never know someone's heart. You never know how they feel".
I wrote the story in a song to remind everyone of life's fragility. We must listen better, speak less, and love more. Because, "There's a God up in Heaven and He hears our every single word. He knows how we feel, and even though it sounds absurd. Say a Prayer in your darkest night. Say a Prayer in your bright sunlight. And Say a Prayer when you're weak and you haven't the strength to fight....Say a Prayer for Me Tonight."
Suicide is such a deep tragedy. We have to help people who are suffering from this unbearable sadness. Love them, show them real friendship, and introduce them to our Higher Power... our Savior.
The "White Dress" began as a song as I was remembering my dear daughter Allegra, on her 1st birthday. She was such a special child, so bright, so alive, and so filled with life. Later Pam Marks and I cried as she grew up, ran to catch the bus, and began experiencing her 1st childhood independence. The colors of the dresses in "The White Dress", communicate the 'colors of life' and the feelings that are associated with growing up. The "White Dress" comes full-circle when the young girl is now a mother herself reflecting on the sadness of divorce, abandonment, and the absence of a real father in her life. This song has touched so many people around the world and I am so proud to have been a part of it.
Follow Him - 1982
Right Where You Are - 1983
Attitude - 1985
Make It Right - 1987
Another Friday Night - 1990
Fire of Forgiveness - 1992
Absolutley Positively - 1994
World Gone Mad - 1995
Release Date: 11/20/2001 Label: Sony
Lyrics to "Unsung Heroes"
Composer: Phil Maderia Sung By: Kenny Marks