My dear friend Jeff Steinberg turns 60 today, and I’m conflicted. I want to tell him “you’re an old, old guy,” but on the other hand, I recognize that I’m not far behind him.
Jeff was born in 1951 with no arms and deformed legs – you may have heard the term “Thalidomide baby” – Thalidomide seems to have been introduced some time after his birth, but Jeff’s physical deformities are very similar to those you’ll find among children who can trace their maladies to that drug.
In those days, such children were institutionalized, and Jeff mostly grew up at Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia and later at the Good Shepherd Home in Allentown, PA. There, a local Christian couple “adopted” him, took him into their hearts and into the church, and they introduced him to the genre of Northern Gospel Music that’s still popular in that part of the state. He taught himself to sing by singing along with the albums of his favorite Gospel groups, and in 1971 he started a singing trio and has been singing and traveling ever since.
Working for Jeff was my first job out of college. He was singing a song called “The Glove” by Gordon Jensen – “Lord, let me be the glove you wear today”, like a glove worn “on a carpenter’s, or on a surgeon’s hand”. He has a driving and powerful voice, with a raspy Neil Diamondish character. And in his younger day, he could pop around a church stage like nobody’s business.
I had something like a journalism degree, and he had me driving hundreds of thousands of miles in a 1979 Ford van, setting up audio for hundreds of concerts he performed in hundreds of different churches from 1981-1986. In the process, yes, I also held some of the hair-washing and hair-spraying duties you’ll see in the video below.
It’s hard to say how deeply those years have affected my whole life since. When we first found out my wife was sick, and I called him, wondering how we were going to get through it, Jeff’s advice to me was “you’ve got to fight like hell every step of the way.” That wasn’t just idle advice. He lived that way. For years I had the privilege of watching him do it. It’s not right to say that nothing ever got him down. But nothing ever has kept him down.
On the video below, about seven minutes, you’ll see clips of him performing small portions of his signature songs, “I’m a Tiny Giant”, and “Masterpiece in Progress”, autographing a T-shirt by signing with a Sharpie pen in his mouth, and ministering to a group of prisoners in prison, among other things. Jeff has never had a lot of huge success in the world, but he’s been a huge success in my own life and the lives of the thousands of others he’s touched in 40 years of ministry now.
He’s booking his fall tour now, and he’s always got a few available dates open. If you’d like to have Jeff perform for your church or function, give him a call at (901) 754-5333, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.