Artist profile: Damaris Carbaugh


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, September 13th. Good morning to you! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. The books of Isaiah and Matthew have passages about people who honor God with their lips, but have hearts that don’t.

EICHER: Damaris Carbaugh is a singer who says she lived that way for nearly two decades. 

WORLD Radio’s Myrna Brown has her story.

SONG: HE’S BEEN FAITHFUL

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: At 63 years old, Damaris Carbaugh has spent more than three quarters of her life on stages and in pulpits. 

SONG: HE’S BEEN FAITHFUL

But decades before people even knew her name, they trusted her voice. 

CARBAUGH: Have a Coke and a smile. I also did, Kentucky Fried Chicken, we do chicken right. 

As a teenager in the seventies, Carbaugh sang commercials and jingles for big advertisers.

CARBAUGH: You could live in a penthouse, and nobody knows you. You go to work in jeans and a tee shirt and you sing, bring out the Hellmans and bring out the best. And you’re grossing over one million dollars. 

In high school, Carbaugh sang for a talent show. A studio drummer heard her and 

CARBAUGH: He’s the one, he said: “Let’s get you recording commercials.” And at 15, I recorded my very first commercial, which was an anti-pollution commercial. Put litter where litter ought to be.

That led to work as a backup singer. 

CARBAUGH: People that you would know…like Barry Manilow. I did a session for Luther Vandross and produced a CD for Dionne Warwick. 

Carbaugh says she was attracted to the work and the lifestyle it promised.

CARBAUGH: And I said I would love to do this and not do anything else. Make enough money that people will clean for me, cook for me, do everything for me. 

It was a stark difference from her life at home in both Puerto Rico and New York. Her mother was an evangelist and her father a singer in the church.  

CARBAUGH: To think that’s what I wanted when I knew that the Savior was real and the world is lost and I didn’t care if people were going to hell. I didn’t care if people knew God. I mean, I wouldn’t let myself think that, but that was the reality of it. All I cared for was my comfort, my glory, my power and people yelling my name for more.  

SONG: WHAT ABOUT MY LOVE (1984)

In 1983, the young wife and mother signed a record deal with Columbia Records and released her first soul album. 

CARBAUGH: I was on all kinds of soul stations. WBLS in New York, stations in LA, even in Atlanta also Chicago. Luther Vandross and Patty Austin were doing backup for me. It’s a beautiful album, but it didn’t go anywhere.  

Five years later, a frustrated Carbaugh traveled to Argentina to sing in Spanish during a pastor’s conference. 

CARBAUGH: Think about it. I never stopped going to church. I was in the choir. I was active in church. I said, I’d love to go. Even that, I remember thinking, see how nice I am. I’m willing to do that. [laughter] Anyway, I’m listening one night. And it’s literally as if God turned off the mic, the speakers. It’s like everything went black. And the Lord just very sweetly said, “What are you doing?” I had never really allowed myself to think I was in a wrong place. But for some reason in that moment…

Carbaugh says she grappled with embarrassment, remorse and anger.

CARBAUGH: I repented. I told the Lord: “I’m sorry that this is not what You want. I understand I’m wrong and you’re right, but I don’t like it one bit.”

She says she found comfort and direction from the Source she’d been neglecting for nearly 20 years.

CARBAUGH: Luke 9:23. That’s like my life verse. If any of you want to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily and follow me. Never did I think that I would enter a joy. That there is such a joy in doing what you should be doing for the Lord.

SOUND: This is not in the script. I’m going to stop for 30 second to tell you something…

Now a grandmother, The East Harlem resident travels extensively as a bilingual conference speaker and every now and then she dabbles in jingles.

SOUND: …so I have a jingle for you tonight. Do you want to hear it? Yes. Read your Bible. [laughter]

In 2013 she released her 15th album.

SONG: WHAT GRACE IS MINE

CARBAUGH: And when I sing Myrna, I feel his pleasure, so it makes me love the Lord even more. Even though now, I struggle. My voice is weak and my range is very low now. And I don’t have much a range any more…but I told the Lord: “until I have nothing at all left, I won’t stop singing.”

SONG: WHAT GRACE IS MINE

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown.


(Photo/Damaris Carbaugh)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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