Singer/songwriter Van Stephenson managed to balance a career as both a sought-after songwriter and member of prominent country trio Blackhawk during a career that spanned more than two decades. He also managed to release two rock albums and scored a Top 30 hit on the pop charts in 1984 with "Modern Day Delilah." Born in Hamilton, OH, on November 4, 1953, Stephenson moved to Nashville at the age of ten, spending his teen years inspired by the Beatles and playing in garage bands. Although he went to (and graduated from) seminary school, he continued to pursue his musical ventures, honing his skills as a songwriter and working as a staff writer. In 1979, Crystal Gayle took Stephenson's "Your Kisses Will" into the Top Ten on the country charts, setting the stage for 20 years of chart hits. His writing credits in the '80s alone would include Top Ten songs for Kenny Rogers, Dan Seals, Janie Fricke, and John Anderson. There would also be a long, fruitful partnership with Dave Robbins, with the two of them collaborating on several hits for Restless Heart including "'Til I Loved You," "Big Dreams in a Small Town," the number one "Bluest Eyes in Texas," and an album track from which the band took its name. Concurrent with his songwriting success, Stephenson signed an artist deal when producer Richard Landis presented his demos to MCA Records.
Righteous Anger, a more rock/pop-oriented venture produced by Landis and featuring members of Restless Heart, was released in 1984. Spurred by heavy airplay for "Modern Day Delilah," the album managed solid sales and nearly spawned a second Top 40 single with "What the Big Girls Do." A second solo release, 1986's Suspicious Heart, would fail to garner as much attention as its predecessor (although "We're Doing Alright" received some AOR play). In the early '90s, Stephenson became one-third of the trio Blackhawk, along with Robbins and Henry Paul. Their first single, "Goodbye Says It All," topped the country charts and their 1993 self-titled debut album went platinum, reeling off another three Top Ten country hits. Blackhawk would issue three more albums during the decade, becoming a staple on country radio and its charts, as well as a strong live draw. Stephenson would be diagnosed with skin cancer and retire from the band in early 2000 to devote more time to his family. On April 8, 2001, after battling the disease for several years, Van Stephenson passed away, leaving behind an impressive legacy and legions of fans. ~ Tom Demalon, Rovi