Bryan Duncan is still dancing after all these years


Do you know someone whose life has changed in a drastic way but they've found a way not just to accommodate the change but gone on to thrive with an ongoing attitude of discovery and hope?

You can nominate them for a Still Dancin' Award by sending their story, in 250 words or less, to Entries will be posted at Duncan's Myspace site.

The name of the nominee can be kept confidential upon request. Every week one person will be awarded a Still Dancin' Award certificate and a copy of the CD Still Dancin' and get a personal congratulations phone call from Bryan Duncan.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Musician Bryan Duncan knows a thing or two about success. Over the past 25 years, he's performed for thousands of fans, garnered multiple Dove Awards, racked up more than a million album sales and had a string of radio hits.

But the Riverside County resident also experienced the pitfalls of success, including the ravaging effects of pride and addiction, and the slow and steady road to recovery. Today, he's still dancing, and learning a few things about God's will for his life.

Bryan Duncan started his music career in 1975 with the Sweet Comfort Band. After half a dozen albums, the band split up in 1984 and Duncan embarked on a solo career. In 2003, he formed the NehoSoul Band with seasoned players from around the U.S., rediscovering the essence of classic R&B and soul.

As he reflects back on his career, Duncan keeps coming back to one common theme: humility.

"I wanted to be the center of attention," he said in a phone interview. "I wanted to have an impact bigger than life."

That meant touring and spending a lot of time promoting himself. It's a necessary evil in the music industry; an artist needs to get his name out to the public in order to sell albums and get God's message to the people. But for Duncan, even God-focused promotion wasn't good.

Being on the road all the time, he lost his sense of community and belonging. His marriage disintegrated. And an addiction he said he's always struggled with took a serious hold in his life.

"The bigger you are," he said, "the more empty spaces there are."

To fill those empty spaces, he started self-medicating. Duncan is reluctant to be specific about his medication of choice, explaining that he doesn't want to be the poster child for any particular addiction. But he said that everyone, even Christians, engage in self-medication when they rely on something other than God to bring comfort. When that something becomes unmanageable, it's an addiction. Some people turn to food, which Duncan calls a socially acceptable form of self-medication.

"Mine wasn't nearly that nice," he admitted.

With his marriage and life in shambles, he found himself resentful and, he admits now, arrogant. He eventually wound up in rehab, where despite the fact that he was suicidal, his main thought was, "I can't be in rehab. Don't you know who I am?"

New humility
He's a humbler man these days. He calls Psalm 119:71 his guiding verse—"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees"—and frequently quotes the 12 steps to sobriety and addiction recovery.

"I think of all the years I expounded Scripture through music and talked about God's marvelous grace and those kinds of things," he mused. "I never had much experience on it. I just borrowed what I said and I just cut and pasted what needed to be there to be acceptable in Christian circles."

He paused.

"I preached to thousands and lost my own soul."

But with recovery came humility and a deeper relationship with God, and now he's working on Step 12 of recovery: giving back to others.

Duncan has spent most of his career promoting himself, but lately has been wondering how he could use his talents in a way that really benefits others. So he's started handing out his Still Dancin' Award, which comes from the title of his newest album, Still Dancin.' Duncan is more than happy to report that despite the major hurdles in his life, he's doing fine, one day at a time. Even so, he thought that it was more important to start recognizing others who have suffered setbacks and not only survived, but also thrived, finding ways to be enthusiastic about life and faith despite illnesses, financial hardships and personal devastation.

Mom, pastor honored
He's given a Still Dancin' Award to a single mother who left an abusive husband, and to a pastor and his wife who have been serving at the same small church for 30 years. He even recognized his own father, who after 40 years of ministry is in the second stages of Alzheimer's.

Nowadays, Duncan finds himself performing in tiny churches and rehab centers, which he said keeps him humble. His admits that his music, a blend of R & B, soul and funk that he calls his worship music, doesn't fit the Christian music industry's current definition of the genre. But he's not worried about that.

"I don't have to be acceptable in Christian circles any more," he said. "Not sure I ever will be.

"I can only give to God what I have and what I am. It's up to him to do something from there. The world is clearly not revolving around me."

And after all these years, he's just fine with that.