Monday, July 3, 2017

#280 I KNOW YOU THINK YOU KNOW by Tim Miner (1988)

I KNOW YOU THINK YOU KNOW by Tim Miner (1988)
Sparrow - SPR 1162

Tim Miner, Brian Tankersley, Don Wallace, James Everette

File Under: Urban/Soul/R&B

Time Capsule-Worthy Track:
Did I Forget To Say

He was a cross between Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Michael McDonald...with better hair. Much better hair. 

I'm surprised Tim Miner's 1988 hair doesn't have its own Facebook page or Twitter account. It was glorious. In fact, in the album liner notes for I Know You Think You Know, we learn that Tim's hair was cut by Laurie Pittman and styled by Kimi Messina, and that Cynthia K. Cruz did his makeup. I'm not kidding.

The emphasis on style and cosmetics should not be allowed to take attention away from the music - which was pretty impressive, by the way. I Know You Think You Know might've had a clunky, confusing title that didn't exactly roll off the tongue...but the tunage contained therein was good stuff. 

Miner's soulful vocals were a rare treat, and on this record he was backed by an all-star team of backing singers that included then-wife Cindy Cruse, BeBe Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Janice Archer Cruse, The Winans, David Pack and Nicole "Bubbles" Bruce (who would later be known as Nicole C. Mullen). The album also featured performances from some top-drawer musicians, including bassist Tommy Sims and guitarists Michael Landau and Phil Keaggy

Born in 1964, Tim Miner grew up in the Church - specifically, his grandfather's church in Dell City, Oklahoma. Tim's father was also a pastor and evangelist, but he passed away when Tim was just a toddler. 

"When my Dad passed away, my Mom was nineteen, I was two, my sister was one, and my mother was seven months pregnant," Tim revealed in a recent interview. "My Mom is the strongest woman I've ever met in my life." 

"We did not grow up with money," Miner said. "Single mom with three kids. I grew up in a house where it was a big deal to eat certain cans of soup that had meat in them." 

[Miner later wrote and recorded a song called Yesterday that served as a loving tribute to his mother.]

During his pre-adolescent years, Miner discovered he could sing and hit the road with his mother and sisters. 

"We kind of learned to play our instruments in church," Miner said in a 2015 interview with Keri Murphy. "If the drummer didn't show up, my Mom would say, 'Tim, go get on the drums.' I said, 'Mom, I don't play drums.'" 

"'Timothy George Miner, I said get on those drums!'" 

"A couple of weeks later it would be like, 'Tim, go get on the bass.' So I learned how to play all those instruments out of sheer fear that my mother was going to do something terrible to me," he joked. 

"But I'm so thankful," he continued, "because my Mom gave me the permission to play. You know, she was like, 'Of course you can.' And I would say, 'But I've never done it before.' And she would say, 'Of course you can. And not only that, you can play any instrument you want.'"

That combination of fear and encouragement was apparently a powerful motivator. Tim Miner plays seventeen different instruments..."and can't read a lick of music," he says with a smile. (He played bass, guitar, and keyboards on I Know You Think You Know, in addition to engineering, mixing and producing the album.)

By the time he was in high school, he had formed a group called Light. By the time he was old enough to drive, Tim had a record deal with Sparrow/Nissi Records. The cover of his eponymous debut shows a smiling, fresh-faced Tim Miner and the album served as an effective introduction to this R&B-loving, soul-stirring white boy. It contained a pro-life song (Endangered Species), a duet with future spouse Cindy Cruse (Always), and my personal favorite, a song written by Hadley Hockensmith and Billy Batstone titled 21st Century. 

It was right about here that Tim Miner married Cindy Cruse, a beautiful 22-year old who'd literally grown up traveling and ministering as part of The Cruse Family CCM group. Tim and Cindy settled in Dallas, Texas and bought a recording studio. 

For some reason, it would be another four years between Tim Miner and I Know You Think You Know. But it was worth the wait. I Know You Think You Know was in some ways the ultimate skating rink album (I mean that in a good way). And it showed considerable growth.

A rocker titled Hey You! warns against pointing fingers and judging others, and contains a guest performance from the now-deceased rapper D-Boy. 

Cover me was a ballad that Christian radio absolutely loved. It features a simple message and a bevy of background vocalists, with Miner's effortless falsetto soaring above it all. 

The Fairlight synthesizer (popular for about the same length of time as Simmons electronic drums) was showcased on Degeneration. The Fairlight was programmed by the prolific Rhett Lawrence.

The Winans lend their considerable talents to a breezy R&B track called You Know I Love This Feelin'. Just listening to Miner's vocal performance on this song alone, I'm guessing that if we spent a few minutes on, we might discover some African-American heritage somewhere in his background. I'm kidding, of course. Miner actually revealed in a recent interview that two 45 rpm records made their way into his home when he was a kid - one by Aretha Franklin and one by Stevie Wonder. Other than those two records, there was only Southern Gospel music in the house. Miner says he nor his mother had any idea how the records got into the house, but he would stand for hours and sing, mimicking what he heard on those 45s, with a hairbrush in his hand that he pretended was a microphone. 

"The way that I sing today is because of those two records," Miner said.

[This was alluded to in a song called White Boy that Miner recorded a few years later. In the song he mentions Franklin and Wonder by name.]

Miner showed an ability and a willingness to take on social issues in an effective way. Too Casual laments the hook-up culture (yes, in 1988) and it contains a Phil Keaggy guitar solo to die for; Smarter Than Crack was a funky number that shamed drug users and dealers in the "Just Say No" Eighties. Miner did his best Michael Jackson impersonation on both songs.

The record's undisputed highlight was an R&B-influenced ballad called Did I Forget To Say. "This release is Tim Miner's crown," said one reviewer. "And this song is the biggest diamond on that crown." This was another song that was perfect for Christian radio in 1988.

After I Know You Think You Know, Tim recorded sporadically, and for two different labels. A True Story was released on Frontline in 1990, but a life-long dream came true for Tim when he was signed to Motown in 1992.

Kerri Murphy and Tim Miner in 2015

"It was my goal as a five-year-old kid," Miner told Keri Murphy in 2015. "The Motown label has a map of Detroit. And I wanted that logo on my album. I said that at five. And I think I was twenty-something when Stevie [Wonder] gave me my deal at Motown." 

Miner's Motown album (1992)

Miner was one of the first white singers ever signed by Motown. He says the art department didn't quite know how to present him. "They didn't know what to do with me," Tim laughed. "They were like, 'Is he Asian? Is he Hawaiian? Is he Hispanic?' So I had super long hair and they put it in a braid. They tried to make me look as black as they could." 

Miner's marriage to Cruse lasted eleven years. "I was raised to believe that marriage was forever," Cindy Cruse-Ratcliffe said recently on the Daystar television network. "My Mom and Dad have been married for fifty-five years. So that's just the way we were raised and grew up. And unfortunately, that wasn't the case for me. My marriage didn't last. It was a very tumultuous marriage. I spent many nights alone, by myself in my home. But I stayed close to the Church. I received counseling from fabulous people. I did all that I knew to do. I believed and I fasted and prayed, I did it all."

I had come from a family of ministry," she said. "I was raised Southern Baptist. And I still love the Southern Baptists. That's how I was raised. But if you go through a divorce, pretty much, your ministry is discounted after that. At least that's the way it was at the time. And I just didn't know what God had for me. I didn't know how the future was going to look." Turns out she needn't have been worried. She remarried and has been leading worship at Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston, Texas since the year 2000. 

Left: Cindy Cruse Miner in 1991
Right: Cindy Cruse Ratcliffe in 2014

Tim Miner recorded three albums for Dream Nation Entertainment in the early 2000s. He says he's written over 4,000 songs over the years. His songs have been recorded by Kim Boyce, Leon Patillo, Al Green, Justin Bieber, Steve Perry, Crystal Lewis, Gladys Knight, Paula Abdul and many others. Miner has also served as a worship pastor for several churches and home Bible studies over the years. These days, he scores films and television shows in addition to producing and writing. 

Tim and Hope Miner

According to the internet, Miner and his wife Hope have been through a bankruptcy and are being sued for fraud related to a talent development business that they own and operate. These reports say that the Miners "prey on religious people who want to break into the entertainment industry" and come from three different sources. While the complaints seem sincere, they also sound a bit sketchy. Certainly, not everything you read on the internet is true, so take it with a grain of salt. 

Perhaps Miner's finest song overall is a tender ballad titled Forgive Me, which first appeared on True Story and was also included on his Motown album. In fact, the self-titled Motown release contained several songs that were unabashedly songs of faith (in addition to several more traditional love songs). When he got the chance to cross over, Tim Miner didn't forget to take the Cross over...and for that he is to be commended.

But I still think he should've signed a major endorsement deal with a shampoo company in the 80s...

Fun Facts: 

• A portion of I Know You Think You Know was recorded at Eat Yourself Into A Coma Studio.

• Miner's rendition of The First Noel on the iconic Sparrow Christmas sampler from 1988 is considered a classic. His friends and label mates BeBe and CeCe Winans wanted to do the same song, but Miner had chosen it first. BeBe and CeCe recorded Silent Night instead.


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  2. Some great information. I'm a long time fan but didn't know about Miner's high school band or that Bieber has recorded one of his songs. Disappointed to read about the lawsuit though. I'm hoping that proves to have no legal merit.