Gospel Pianist Anthony Burger Dies At 44 While On Gaither Cruise

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A gospel pianist who hailed from Cleveland, Tn., died Wednesday while performing on a cruise with Bill Gaither.

Anthony Burger was 43.

He was a part of the Gaither Homecoming shows and had a number of gospel albums to his credit.

He lived at Brentwood, Tn.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said Mr. Burger grew up in Cleveland and was on his radio show playing the piano when he was three. He said he had been friends with him ever since.

Mayor Rowland said Anthony burned his hands when he fell on a grate as a youngster, and doctors said he would not be able to use his hands. "But he was determined that he would play the piano."

He said he left Bradley High School when he was 16 to join the Kingsmen Quartet. He went on "to win virtually every gospel award. He won the gospel music award so often that they named it for him."

Mayor Rowland said Mr. Burger came back to Cleveland to film his 25th anniversary music video and it was a best seller. He was in Cleveland for three recent Christmas concerts and all were standing room only.

Mayor Rowland said Mr. Burger played the National Anthem at the World's Fair when President Reagan attended, and he played several times at the White House. He said he "played with all the great people."

He said there was no hint that he had any health problem, though he had said he was not feeling well and he had chest pains. He said he was on stage playing when he winked at his wife, Luanne, then fell dead.

The couple has a daughter, Lori, who is in college, and young sons, A.J. and Austin.

His parents, Richard and Jean Burger, still live in Cleveland.

Mayor Rowland said funeral arrangements are incomplete, though he expects there will be services in Nashville and in Cleveland.

He said the ship is not due to reach shore until Saturday. An autopsy will be performed, but a heart attack is suspected.

Anthony Burger was described as "a piano virtuoso with an incomparable style of playing. Classically trained, the much-revered pianist for the Gaither Homecoming series as well as a highly successful solo recording artist, he commands a stage with his keyboard acrobatics."

On his latest release, A Tribute To Bill & Gloria Gaither, he featured some of the best-loved classics from the Gaithers, including He Touched Me, The King Is Coming, It Is Finished and Because He Lives.

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