Mark Heard released 16 records in his lifetime, and produced and performed with many other artists as well, such as Sam Phillips (aka Leslie Phillips), Pierce Pettis, Phil Keaggy, Vigilantes of Love, Peter Buck of R.E.M. (who co-produced VOL's album Killing Floor with Heard), John Austin, The Choir, Randy Stonehill and Michael Been of The Call. Heard produced part of Olivia Newton-John's The Rumor, which also included a cover of Heard's own "Big and Strong" (originally called "How To Grow Up Big And Strong").
In 1981, Heard began a recording contract with Chris Christian's Home Sweet Home Records. Heard released five albums for the label; 1981's Stop the Dominoes, 1982's Victims of the Age; 1983's Eye of the Storm; 1984's Ashes and Light; and 1985's Mosaics. The overall experience was not one that Heard enjoyed, partly due to his personal experiences with record company executives, and partly due to compromises he felt under pressure to make in order to make himself and his songs more marketable to Christian audiences.
In 1984, Heard began recording in his home studio, which he dubbed "Fingerprint Recorders," after the title of one of his earlier records. From that point on, his albums were largely made at home, with just a handful of friends and relatives lending a hand. In 1986, Heard decided to try something a little different and recorded the experimental Pop/Rock album for What? Records entitled Tribal Opera, under the name iDEoLA. When asked about the unusual name, Heard replied "It's not supposed to be mysterious or anything; I just put a band together and right now I happen to be the only one in it." Heard also directed a music video for the single of that album, "Is It Any Wonder."
With the formation of Fingerprint Records and his studio, Heard began to produce albums for a number of artists including two albums for Randy Stonehill, Jacob's Trouble, Pierce Pettis and 1992's Vigilantes of Love album, Killing Floor, which he co-produced with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. Stonehill's Until We Have Wings including a song co-written by Heard, "Faithful," although the CD liner notes credit the song to Heard's pseudonym Giovanni Audiori.
The early 1990s saw a return to recording albums of his own, with 1990's Dry Bones Dance. Fans and reviewers alike hailed the new release as one of the best of his career. Heard followed Dry Bones Dance with Second Hand in 1991, and, finally, Satellite Sky in 1992, which would turn out to be his final release.
On July 4, 1992, Heard had a heart attack on stage while performing with Pierce Pettis and Kate Miner, at the Cornerstone Festival, near Chicago. Heard finished his set and went to the hospital immediately afterwards. Two weeks after being released from the hospital, Heard had a cardiac arrest and died on August 16th of 1992. Before Heard's death, he had released three albums, been included on the Legacy II sampler from Windham Hill's High Street label, and was nearly finalizing a mainstream contract with Bruce Cockburn's label, True North Records in Canada. There was also interest from Sony's Columbia Records label for distribution in the US.
In 1994, many artists came together to record a tribute album called Strong Hand of Love. Artists lending their talents to the project included Victoria Williams, Chagall Guevara, Buddy Miller, Julie Miller, Daniel Amos, The Choir, Bruce Cockburn, and the Vigilantes of Love. The project was later reissued as a two-CD set with additional tracks and retitled Orphans of God. Cockburn frequently calls Heard his favorite songwriter and even wrote and recorded a song dedicated to Heard for his Dart To The Heart album, "Closer To The Light." Daniel Amos dedicated their album MotorCycle to Heard in 1993, and The Swirling Eddies dedicated Zoom Daddy to Heard the same year. Julie Miller also wrote a song in tribute to Heard called "All My Tears" which has also been recorded by Jars of Clay, Emmylou Harris (studio and live versions) and Selah with Kim Hill.
In 2000, a group of fans gathered together to help Fingerprint Records release Mystery Mind, the first collection of previously unreleased material from the songwriter. There were plans to release a full length collection that same year, but those plans never came to fruition.
In 2002, the Cornerstone Music Festival held a songwriting contest in honor of Heard. The following year, Paste Magazine released Hammers and Nails, a CD of previously unreleased recordings by Heard. An authorized biography of the same name was also released by Cornerstone Press, written by Matthew Dickerson.
At the 4th Annual Americana Music Association Honors & Awards, the Ryman Auditorium September 2005, Buddy Miller received the Album of the Year Award for his Universal United House of Prayer, and the opening cut of that album, Mark Heard's "Worry Too Much" (originally featured on Heard's Second Hand, Fingerprint Records 1991), won the Song of the Year Award.
In Paste Magazine #22 June/July 2006 - a Special Collector's Issue featuring the 100 Best Living Songwriters - Mark Heard was remembered as well under the heading Wish You Were Here: "Mark Heard's lyrics are weighted with such a wry longing that they'll forever reflect a fresh turbulence."
On 16 December 2007 a new collection of Solid Rock era Demos was announced, to be entitled: 'The Lost Artifacts Of An American Poet'.
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