By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
NASHVILLE, TN (ANS – March 1, 2016) – Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) fans in the late 1970s and early 1980s, will always remember the music of Evie, with songs like “Mirror,” “Step into the Sunshine,” “Four Foot Eleven” and of course, her popular hit, “Come On Ring Those Bells.”
Now going under her married name of Evelyn Tornquist Karlsson, this pint-size bundle of joy was born on March 29, 1956, in the United States of Norwegian immigrants, Evie, she began her singing career as a young teenager while visiting her parents’ homeland.
She released her English language debut album at 16 in 1972, and went on to put out more than 30 albums, including several in various Scandinavian languages.
Evie, who was recognized as the Dove Award recipient of Female Vocalist of the Year for 1977 and 1978, married Swedish pastor and musician Pelle Karlsson in 1979 and in 1981, for a time, partially retired from regularly performing music in 1981 to pursue other avenues of ministry, but is now singing again at special events.
I caught up with Evie, who was officially inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame on February 22, 2005, and was one of the inaugural inductees to the Christian Music Hall of Fame, along with Pelle, as the recent NRB Convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, and asked her how her career began.
“I don’t really see it as a career, but rather a ministry — a calling — that started when I was just a little girl and started singing with my mom,” she told me. “At that time, we were living in in New Jersey — my parents had come over from Norway, and it was just that I had a song in my heart and the doors opened. The rest is wonderful to look back on. I’m soon to be 60 years old and I’ve been singing for Jesus for almost all my life.”
She went onto say, “I am still doing concerts, but not as many as in those early days. I’m now a grandma to three beautiful children and I like to hang out with them as much as I can.”
I wondered what some of the favorites that people most enjoy when she sings, and she stated, “I would say that many want to hear the old songs like ‘All to Jesus,’ ‘Mirror’ or ‘Special Delivery,’ as well as Pelle’s songs, ‘Touch Your People Once Again’ and ‘Let There Be Fellowship,’ and, of course, ‘Come On Ring Those Bells,’ written by Andrew Culverwell from the UK, which is still a big favorite.
“In fact, I sang ‘Come On Ring Those Bells’ a couple of months ago for a dear friend’s funeral,” Evie continued. “She was a darling lady that loved Jesus and this was the family’s theme song and her husband asked me to sing it at the funeral. Of course I said that I would and told the people there, that he had asked me to sing it.”
I then asked Evie if she realized that in those early days of the Jesus People Movement, that she was helping to make musical history, and she replied, “Absolutely not, but each day I have to say it was it was just like ‘strap on the seatbelt guys here we go; we’re going all out for Jesus no matter what and let’s see what He does today.’ What a privilege to do that and really still today I am doing the same thing in different ways.
“More than anything else, I want to be remembered as someone who has loved Jesus with all of my heart. That’s really what my life is all about — just doing today what God has called me to do.”
I then asked Pelle – they both now live in Florida — how he first met Evie, and he said, “She was very young and travelling to Scandinavia for the first time. I was a youth pastor in Stockholm, and also did conferences and meetings. The Lord made clear that He wanted us to be together and we have enjoyed many years of wonderful fellowship and now we’re here today and we feel it’s just the start. We’re on a great run with the Lord and each other.”
I finally asked the couple how people could pray for them, and Evie first said, “Please pray that we would be found faithful to the last breath we have on this side of heaven. That’s the biggest prayer request I have.”
Pelle then said, “I have to echo my wife on that. The foremost thing with our life here on earth is to follow and serve Christ. If we do that, and we are successful in that — I mean nobody’s perfect — but as the Lord gives grace, then we have succeeded with our lives and that’s our goal.”
If you would like to keep up with Evie’s life today, just go to http://eviemusic.org/wordpress/
Note: I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
Photo captions: 1) A young Evie singing. 2) Pelle and Evie pictured at this year’s NRB in Nashville. (Photo: Dan Wooding). 3) Evie’s album cover. 4) Norma and Dan Wooding on a reporting assignment for ANS. (Photo: Brian Seltzer).
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books.
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