Throw Back: Kathy Troccoli

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a Rite Aid drugstore in Newnan, GA waiting for a prescription to be filled. Music from the 1980s and 1990s was playing on the store sound system as I sat checking my email on my phone. But all of a sudden a song came on that made me pocket the phone and listen. I turned to my wife, Teri, and said, “That’s Kathy!” It was Everything Changes, Kathy Troccoli’s big crossover hit from the 1991 project Pure Attraction.

Kathy and me, Long Island, 1994
Kathy and me, Long Island, 1994

Kathy was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island. She started singing publicly in junior high, performing some Carole King songs at her school’s talent show. She studied jazz and opera at Berklee College of Music in Boston for a year, and then returned to the Island to continue college there. In 1980 she opened at a Glad concert and Ed Nalle, the group’s leader, helped her put together some demos. Those tapes eventually found their way to Amy Grant’s brother-in-law Dan Harrell and his partner Michael Blanton. The two had recently formed Blanton-Harrell Entertainment and would go on to manage the careers of artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.

Blanton-Harrell shopped Kathy’s tapes to Christian record labels around Nashville, but no one in the industry knew what to make of her husky, sensual alto. They were, frankly, afraid of that big voice. So Blanton-Harrell decided to start their own record company, Reunion Records, especially to showcase Kathy. Her first album, Stubborn Love, came out in 1982 and included the hits Stubborn Love and Kathy’s version of You’re All I Need To Get By. She followed that up in 1984 with Heart & Soul which included Holy Holy and I Belong to You. In 1986 Images was released. That project wasn’t as warmly received as her first two efforts. Shortly after its release Kathy took a break from recording and returned to Long Island.

Stubborn Love, Reunion Records first release.
Stubborn Love, Reunion Records first release.

I moved to Long Island in early 1988. But since Kathy wasn’t recording or performing, I didn’t meet her. It was on an evening in April 1990 at Michael W. Smith’s house in Nashville. I was there for an event during Gospel Music Association (GMA) week. It was outside and getting chilly. As I was about to go into the house and warm up I noticed a young lady sitting at a table by herself. She looked familiar, so I walked over to get a better look. “Excuse me,” I started, “aren’t you Kathy Troccoli?” “Yeah,” she answered. “I’ve been wanting to meet you for so long. I work at WLIX on the Island, I’m,” and before I could finish she said, “I know who you are. I listen.” I pulled up a chair and we talked for the rest of the evening, forgetting all about the chill in the air.

I made a long-time friend that evening. No matter where the radio career took me, I always manged to keep in touch with Kathy. Softball games on the Island, concerts in Louisville and St. Louis. A contest that took me and a couple of listeners to a Kathy concert in Houston. A women’s conference and more concerts in Atlanta. The occasional phone call. I remember shortly after the CD Pure Attraction came out in 1991 Kathy gave me a copy of the video for Everything Changes and came to the station on Long Island to see what I thought of it. It was fabulous, cutting edge videography for 1991 and a great song. It would go on to be Kathy’s biggest crossover hit.

Kathy continued to release chart-topping projects through the 1990s and into the 2000s. She’s still recording, performing and writing books and doing tons of speaking engagements. It’s been way too long since I’ve seen or spoken with her. Maybe she’ll see this and give me a holler. I hope so. I miss her, Kathy is a unique and special person with a tremendous amount of God-given talent.

You can keep up with Kathy on her official website here.

Here’s that video of Everything Changes.

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