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Chicago-born singer and songwriter John Austin began his musical journey just out of high school, recording an influential debut album, 1992's The Embarrassing Young, with producer Mark Heard. The album, which featured an intelligent and engaging folk-rock approach, was critically and enthusiastically embraced by the alternative Christian music industry, and Austin's career was poised to take off when disaster struck. He was jumped by a street gang in his hometown just before he was to leave on an international tour, beaten with a baseball bat, and his left arm was badly shattered. In the months it took him to recover from the attack, Austin's label, Word Records, dropped him from its artist roster and Heard, who was as much a mentor and friend to Austin as he was a producer, died of a heart attack. Austin recovered from his injuries, married his frequent duet partner and collaborator Erin Echo, and proceeded to pick up the pieces of his career, releasing Authorized Bootleg on Twitch Records in 1994 and following it with Byzantium on PG Records in 1996. If I Was a Latin King followed in 1998 from WeatherVane Records, with Busted at the Pearly Gates from Serious Hip Productions arriving in 2002. Across the Sea appeared in 2008, and Soul Bossa Nova followed in 2012. ~ Steve Leggett
1969 in Chicago, IL