Married: Levette Bethea, three children: Lauryn, 9, Michael Jr., 5, Madyson, 2
Michael Bethea recently released his debut Gospel/Contemporary Christian CD with the independent Soul Play Records label. But to say he is a rookie would be inaccurate.
The Mississippi native grew up singing in church before he signed with RCA in 1982 with a group called Windshimes where he sang dance and R&B music. “We signed with the record label and didn’t do much so I moved to Destin, Fla., and got with a band there and played a long time.”
He was part of the house band at Harry T’s in Destin for 20 years. Then his mother moved to Destin and she got Bethea back singing in church when he wasn’t earning a living singing in the club. His life changed six year ago when he became sick with a rare form of pneumonia that left him on life support for 10 days. About 18 different bands from the Destin area collaborated on a benefit concert and raised $50,000 to cover his medical expenses.
After this he started doing more studio work and began singing for ministries worldwide on a part-time basis. “After I got sick, I went back and sang for a year and I started thanking everyone. I knew I was able to make a living doing that but I needed to start doing it for God,” he says. “The wake up call came when I was singing one night in the club and this lady came up to me from Panama and said she saw me on the Catholic Channel and there I was singing in the club. That was the turning point; I definitely knew I needed to do this full time for God.”
Circumstances fell into place for Bethea and his wife quickly, and he credits God for opening a job for him at a boat manufacturer in the area. “Within two days my wife found a house two minutes from her mom’s so we didn’t have to worry about daycare. I ended up working two and a half years at Skiers Choice, but I didn’t do much playing,” he says.
When the economy slumped and layoffs hit 18 months ago, it was a mixed blessing for Bethea and within a month he was back in Florida working with a producer and recording his CD. To hear the music, visit www.michaelbethea.com.
Bethea says he’s learned patience in this time, which he says has a lot to do with faith. “Faith is you having to wait on God to direct you,” he says.
Here is Michael Bethea:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“My father because whatever he did, he wanted to be, if not the best, one of the best at whatever it was, whether it was sports, music or work.”
What are you guilty of?
“I am guilty of getting sidetracked, especially at home with the kids.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“My keyboard, that’s where I become creative and I write. I take pride in my keyboard. It’s my most prized possession. I really know how to utilize what it does to write songs.”
Who has been the most influential person in the 20th Century?
“My father. Even though he’s not here anymore, my father affected my life because my father and mom separated when I was small and he lived 18 hours away, but every summer we would go down and visit him and the time we spent together, he really showed us his love for us. That’s why family is so important to me. God has really allowed me to be there for my children and to mold them and point them in the Christian way.”
If you only had a week to live, what would you do and why?
“I would spend all the time I could with my relatives from out of town because of all the memories I have growing up with them. No place, thing or journey would even be considered if I had one week to live. They are all a very musical family. My aunts, my mom, they all had a singing group. Whenever we were growing up during the holidays, we would have to get up and sing. It was almost like a talent show because everyone could sing.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Funny. I love making people laugh and they don’t mind hanging out with me, I think.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“Nothing, I’m me and I am not, and never will be, perfect. I will never please everyone. Knowing that, I would not change one thing.”
What is your passion?
“I would have to say my passion is singing for God, to help people know about Him through my singing. To sing about how He is so real and how He forgives us no matter what we’ve done.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My father, who is in heaven now, to talk about all of the great childhood memories he gave me before he passed away, and to tell him how I’m being the best father I can to my children because of him.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“I would go back to 1982 because that was the year my father passed away. He took his own life. I was in the studio recording with RCA and he had been very sick and the doctors had him on different medications and now they question whether the medicine was good. He was struggling with a lot of things and wanted to be perfect for me and my brother. He took his life because he thought, in our eyes, he wasn’t the Superman he used to be because he lost weight and was sick. I would want to tell him and that I’m not mad. We’re not perfect. We put pressure on ourselves. We have to try to satisfy everyone else when we should just try to be the best person we can, and live as godly as we can, knowing we’re going to make mistakes because God forgives.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“It was a vocal processor I got this Christmas. I’ll be able to use it live. It cleans up your voice. I want to sound as close to studio quality as I can and I got this to use when I am performing live.”
In the workplace, would you rather be powerful or popular?
“I would rather be popular because once you have people that admire you and respect you, then power will come at that time. It’s great to get popularity first and people’s respect. It’s like having power.”
Who is your hero?
“My father is my hero because he was in construction work. He was muscular and would play basketball. He was good at basketball, shooting pool and he played guitar. When you’re 11 and 12, that is your hero. When he was with us, he focused on us. He was my hero because I saw even though he divorced my mom, he showed his love for me.”
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
“I like both, but I’m allergic to cats.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“When I was a teen, I went to catch chickens on a farm. I’m from Laurel, Miss., and Sanderson Farms is 20 minutes from Laurel. They would come in our neighborhood about 6 in the evening and I decided to go do it one night. I went out right before dark to this long chicken house and you could hear them. There were about 30,000 of them. They were flapping their wings and dust was getting in my eyes and we did this until 4 or 5 in the morning. My eyes were swollen and red. I made $60 or $70 for that night, which was great pay in ’79 but that was the worst job.”