Monday, July 28, 2008

ANTHONY BURGER - HIS LIFE and LEGACY

Anthony Burger was a musical genius, a child prodigy, making his radio debut at the age of five years old. After his death, Mayor Rowland of Cleveland, Tennessee, said that Anthony had played the piano on his radio show in Cleveland when he was only three years old. Cleveland was where he’d been born on June 5, 1961, to Richard and Jean Burger. The miracle of Anthony’s talent lay in the fact that at the age of eight months old, while learning to walk, one of the wheels of his walker got caught on a furnace grate, causing the walker to roll over, throwing Anthony down onto the heater. According to the Anthony Burger web site, “he sustained third degree burns throughout his legs, face and hands. He had to be carried on a pillow for an entire year, during which time he received three medicated baths a day for the burns. Doctors who treated him said he would never be able to move his hands. But God had a plan for his life and his hands. At age 3, Anthony played his first song, The Old Rugged Cross.”

In his biography, Anthony said, “eventually the Lord healed my hands because He had a job for me to do.” When he was just five years old, Anthony became the youngest student ever to be accepted by the Chattanooga Cadek Conservatory. Again from his family’s web site; “Playing the piano was more than just a job for Anthony Burger. It was a way of life, as well as a blessing, privilege and a direct gift from God.”


Anthony’s first recording, Anthony Burger At The Lowry Organ, was released in 1975 when he was fourteen years old. His hometown newspaper said that, “He left Bradley High School when he was 16 to join the Kingsmen Quartet. He went on to win virtually every gospel award. He won the gospel music award so often that they named it for him.” At the age of 17, he was nominated as one of the Top Five pianists in Gospel music, and went on to be voted the Favorite Pianist in the Singing News Fan Awards for an unprecedented ten years. The award was renamed the “Anthony Burger Award” for several years after that, with Anthony presenting the award to the winner each year.

In 1992, Anthony left the Kingsmen to strike out on his own. Always giving God the glory for his healing, talent and success, Anthony graciously permitted fellow keyboardists to perform his arrangements. In other words, Anthony didn’t seem to have the ego problem we often witness when an artist reaches a status of such great success; his feet were planted solidly on the ground. And this from the Gaither site; “Nashville, TN - Gospel Music's own Anthony Burger has been named the newest Steinway Artist by world-renowned piano maker, Steinway and Sons. Anthony, a regular performer on the popular Gaither Homecoming Videos and tour, joins such famous pianists as Billy Joel, Van Cliburn, Harry Connick, Jr., and the late Irving Berlin and Vladimir Horowitz in receiving this prestigious honor. The announcement was made on January 18, 2006, at Steinway's annual Dealer Dinner held in Los Angeles at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Anthony says, "This is an incredible honor for me. I've been playing a Steinway piano on the Gaither tour for years and wouldn't want to play anything else." This special honor was announced one month before his death.

He performed at the World’s Fair, The White House, several Billy Graham Crusades, and even in small country churches strewn across the country. He traveled nationally and internationally, finally joining up with Bill Gaither, serving as pianist for the Gaither Vocal Band and some of their other groups. He also played for Mark Lowry, a great Christian singer and comedian, who at one time also toured with the Gaithers.

Anthony and his smokin' piano at a Gaither performance.

LuAnn & Anthony 2005 South Africa

LuAnn, Anthony & Lori Burger Summer 2005

Yet, with all the awards, (far too many to list here), rubbing shoulders with the world’s elite, and giving over 250 performances a year, Anthony was real people. By all accounts, he lived for his Heavenly Father, family, and sharing the gift God had bestowed upon him. He also sponsored the Anthony Burger Golf Classic. He once stated about himself, “I am a simple man, with a majestic instrument and the power of God behind me.”




On February 22, 2006, during a Caribbean cruise on the Atlantic Ocean, aboard the MS Zuiderdam, a ship chartered for a Gaither Gospel Cruise, Anthony Burger was accompanying Bill & Gloria Gaither and Guy Penrod on the song, “Hear My Song, Lord,” when fans in the audience noticed he had quit playing, his hands clenched into fists over the keyboard. Several of his fellow artists carried him backstage, where the ship’s emergency response team unsuccessfully performed CPR for 45 minutes.














On 2006 Gaither Cruise

Cleveland’s Mayor Rowland said there had been no hint of any health problems, though he had said he was not feeling well and had chest pains. “He was on stage playing when he winked at his wife, LuAnn, and then fell dead.” According to the official medical examiner’s report, Anthony’s heart simply burst. This is a condition similar to what took actor John Ritter’s life in 2003. Anthony Burger was only 44 years old and is survived by wife, LuAnn, two sons, A. J. and Austin, one daughter, Lori, his parents, Richard and Jean, two brothers, Randy and Clinton, and many more family and friends who loved him and continue to miss him.















Southern Gospel Artist, Phil Cross, a leader in the Southern Gospel music field stated, “….pianos on Earth must now cry, as they say goodbye to a master.”

Phil Cross

Psalms 116: 15 reads, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” I Corinthians 2:9 reads, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” So I’m thinking Anthony Burger is hearing notes he couldn’t have even conceived of here on Earth. And even though Steinway makes a wonderful piano, I can only imagine what God had waiting for Anthony to play in Heaven! Anthony Burger’s earthly death was a tremendous loss to those of us who loved him, and were in awe of his God-given talent, but if we’re Heaven bound, we shall see him again and just think of the music he’ll make there!

From what I’ve read, Anthony’s lovely family is doing quite well. His wife, LuAnn, continues to accept honors and awards on his behalf, always including Anthony’s parents, Richard & Jean. His children are also carrying on in a manner that would make him proud. Lori graduated from Belmont University in 2007 and is an accomplished singer in her own right; also in 2007, A. J. graduated from high school and his plans at that time were to attend Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, on a music scholarship. Son, Austin, has stayed involved with answering fan mail sent to the family and I’ve requested a current update from him. Since this family stays so busy and involved, I may or may not hear back from him. But I do know the family appreciates hearing from Anthony’s fans and receive mail from all over the world that lifts their spirits and reaffirms the fact that they shared their lives with a very special man. If you want to peruse their site, make contact or are interested in any of Anthony’s music, go to http://www.anthonyburger.com/ Please know that if I review an artist, author or any other person on here, it’s because my life has been touched in some way by that person. Although I don’t intend to commercialize anyone, (the ads below are by Google, and are not personally endorsed by me), I do, Dear Reader, want to make people who are special to me, more accessible to you. As always, your comments and/or emails are welcome.


















3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just finished watching "The Gaithers" with Antony Burger, he is great on that piano, I just love to here him play. I as well as others miss this great talent from God. Thank you. God Bless.

Tammi said...

Thank you for sharing this update. A dear friend of mine recently passed away. He was a faithful church member who first introduced me to the music of Anthony Burger. He was such an inspiration to me, even in my music as church pianist. I know that my friend is in heaven with the Lord and is enjoying the music of Anthony on a golden grand piano!
God bless you too.
Tammi Yates

Tammi said...

Thank you for sharing this update. A dear friend of mine recently passed away. He was a faithful church member who first introduced me to the music of Anthony Burger. He was such an inspiration to me, even in my music as church pianist. I know that my friend is in heaven with the Lord and is enjoying the music of Anthony on a golden grand piano!
God bless you too.
Tammi Yates