Tag Archives: contemporary christian music

Jesus and the Top 40

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“And the three men I admire most, The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, They caught the last train for the coast The day the music died” Don McLean American Pie 

Back in the 1960s to the early 1980s God was not absent from the Top 40. In fact back then it seemed that even non-believers were okay with Jesus. However by the late 1980s and early 1990s much of that good feeling had died away. Few artists would take up songs with spiritual or religious themes, especially those of Western Christianity after that, unless they were artists who cloistered themselves in the self licking ice cream cone and ghetto of the Contemporary Christian Music industry. That is sad because many of these artists are quite talented but through the separatist tendencies of many churches and “Christian” publishers these artists seldom ever break out. Some like Amy Grant have, but she is a rare exception and she has been rejected by many in the church who in her early years were devotees.

I guess that some of the reasons are that many artists had little religious background and for many of those who did their religious experience was negative. This is an indictment of the church if you ask me, both mainline churches and Evangelical churches. Part I am sure was that many churches, be they “liberal” mainline churches or “conservative” or “fundamental” churches lost any real sense of a God that transcended severely political, ideological or doctrinal beliefs that regular people could relate to. As Pope Francis noted about “ideological Christians:

“And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

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But back in the 1960s to early 1980s quite a few artists included references to God and Jesus in their music. In fact even if they were not believers themselves they were at least aware of the ideas, concepts and traditions of faith and included them in often unique ways in their “secular” music.

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Here are some of those songs.

Doobie Brothers: Jesus is Just Alright http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwbGjzF3mB0

Kris Kristofferson: Why Me Lord http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtQOY-0sViQ

Norman Greenbaum: Spirit in the Sky http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cXrEPNvRO8

Ray Stevens: Everything is Beautiful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlwfGh-SVXw

Petula Clark: I Don’t Know How to Love Him http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiBmvy0nR8g

ZZ Top: Jesus Just Left Chicago https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN69GC2amTg&feature=player_embedded

Jesus Christ Superstar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGYi1qJkb0M

Don McLean: American Pie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0Y_XRiJsCI

Simon and Garfunkel: Bridge over Troubled Water http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-PNun-Pfb4 and Sound of Silence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTCNwgzM2rQ

David Bowie: Word on a Wing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-ojMnEEmU4

Sister Janet Meade: The Lord’s Prayer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd4iJkNCaZ8

Godspell: Day By Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PjfBQjJT8

Cat Stevens: Morning has Broken http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TWd3skb-Rw

Ocean: Put Your Hand in the Hand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI1DiddWCKs&feature=player_embedded

Paul Stookey: The Wedding Song (There is Love) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1v84WKC6Pg

Bob Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cJhIu8PUFI

Some of these songs are true hymns or Gospel songs, others based at least loosely on the life of Jesus or scripture. Others are the artists interpretation of faith or of something that was a part of their experience of God and faith. This doesn’t mean that the theology in all of these songs was good, but it does show that faith regardless of its lack of perfection can still be an important part of life in the public square.

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My hope is that new artists whether they are believers or not will rediscover the more transcendent and eternal dimensions of life and faith. I hope that they will be able to separate the knowledge of Jesus from the more ideological and moralistic aspects of faith and re-imagine the transcendent parts of life which have over the last 30 years or so for the most part disappeared from popular music.

Why me Lord, what have I ever done, To deserve even one, Of the pleasures I’ve known

Tell me Lord, what did I ever do, That was worth loving you, Or the kindness you’ve shown… Kris Kristofferson “Why” 

Enjoy and hopefully be inspired.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Would You Crucify Him? The Hard Question Christians Need to Ask Themselves Today

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Would you crucify Him
Would you crucify Him…, my religious friend?
Would you crucify Him…, talking ’bout the sweet Lord Jesus
If He’d walk right here among you once again?

Well it’s another Jousting at Windmills Day at Padre Steve’s World and today we go back in history to a time the called the 70s.

Back in the late 1970s John Michael Talbot, a former rocker turned early contemporary Christian music artist became a Catholic and a lay Franciscan. Around that time he participated in a recording with a number of other artists from that early part of the CCM era, Second Chapter of Acts, Keith Greene, Barry McGuire and his brother Terry to perform a musical about the book of Acts called Firewind. In it John Michael wrote and performed a song that has haunted me ever since. It is a song that forces me to look at my life and the way that I treat others in the light of the demands of the Gospel. It is called Would You Crucify Him?

It really is one of the most haunting, and to use Evangelical Speak “convicting” songs I have ever heard. Unfortunately I think that the message of the song is often unheard or ignored by most Christians. I think this is the case since the time of Constantine when the Church gained the political backing of the State. Since then in almost every clime and place that the Church has enjoyed that privileged status it is almost always used in ways that would so grieve Jesus.

One cannot read the Gospels nor many of the Old Testament Prophets and think anything else. The harshest condemnations found in Jesus’ message almost always were directed at the religious establishment which used its power for its own gain. It was they who quite often despised the those that Jesus showed the greatest compassion and love: the alien, the woman, the leper, the tax collector, the criminal, the hated Roman occupiers of Palestine and others on the margins of society who were looked upon with scorn by the religious people of his day.

The sad thing is scorn and distain for the people that Jesus reached out to the most that is so often the case today among the leaders of what has to be called the political Religious Right. Unfortunately that attitude is so widespread among those people’s disciples that hatred in the name of Jesus is the new normal. The attitude is one of entitlement and privilege that frankly is scary. Rather than reach out in love and care to those different and than them they viciously attack them supposedly to “obey God and follow the Bible.” It is sad to say that quite often that we are no different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

I have felt the sharpness of those attacks. Though I am a Christian I have been called a Nazi, a Communist, a Socialist an apostate and even most recently “Hitler’s Love Child” by a Twitter Troll and worse. The invective that I have been exposed to after my return from Iraq suffering from PTSD and questioning faith and struggling to believe in God again even while trying to minister to people facing death in ICUs and ERs really changed me. When faith returned it was different and I am glad for that and now for that matter really don’t give a damn what “Conservative Christians” think of me.

Unfortunately those that call me these things are all self identified Conservative Christians, mostly Evangelicals but sometimes Catholics and Mainline Christians who also identify themselves as Patriots who believe in the Constitution, whatever that means. The fact that I have sworn an oath to defend that Constitution and their rights under it and have done so for 32 years in both the Army and Navy in peace and war is lost on them. Instead I am the Nazi because I dare criticize their practice of the faith and stand up for those that they hate.

As a historian who has spent much of my academic life studying Weimar and the Nazi regime I have to say that those that most resemble the Nazis today are Conservative Christians, the whole God and Country crowd. The same understanding of faith that allowed “Conservative Bible Believing” German Christians to wholeheartedly support the Hitler regime and for those Evangelicals that want to claim the Martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a “Conservative” they had better think again. If they had actually read his books, writings and sermons they would find that he and most of the other leaders of the Confessing Church weren’t conservative at all, not in the sense that modern “Conservative Christians” understand the word.

Thus I have become a bit sensitive and when I see people who wrap themselves in the flag and claim the banner of the Cross mistreat others bothers me. There is a quote often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis that says “When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” The quote actually appears to be a condensation of his thoughts and writings but taken in the context of when it appeared in the 1930s is quite correct. Hitler, Mussolini, Franco all co-opted the conservative Christians of their nations by appealing to their fears of atheistic Communism and Socialism as well as minorities, Jews, homosexuals and any other group.

The fact that many justify their assaults on others not like them by claiming that “the other side is just as bad or just as hateful” miss the whole point of Jesus who was quite empathetic about telling his disciples to “turn the other cheek” and “repay evil with good.” The really sad thing is that there will be probably at least one person at some time that visits this site and comments on this article who either tells me that I have misunderstood Jesus or cites another Bible verse to justify hating and mistreating others.

I am appalled at the way self identified Christians rant at people they disagree with, disapprove of or simply hate. I am appalled when I see them make common cause with non-Christian ideologues like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and others who spew venom at liberals, gays, women, blacks, Moslems, immigrants and others on a daily basis. Because of this I have taken up the causes a support the liberties of these people because they are the people that Jesus would have done the same for in his day.

But back to the song. Talbot and others like him came out of the 1960s and large parts of the Christian church condemned the whole youth revolution of the time. The things said by preachers of the hippies and the war protesters and those that were in the rock and roll music scene were and are shameful. So when a few churches began welcoming the “Jesus Freaks” who came out of it it was pretty cool.

The Talbots, Barry McGuire and others were among the first and they were quite revolutionary for their day. Barry McGuire’s song Don’t Blame God for the Sins of America is terrifying, especially when one sees just the incestuous relationship between much of the Christian Right, big business and the industries that promote war and violence.

Of course this was before established “Christian” record companies sensed the chance to make a fast buck by commercializing “Contemporary Christian Music” bought up the original small market Christian labels such as Sparrow, Birdwing and Maranatha! Music and turned it into a pile of very profitable slick rubbish. The fact is that there is not an Evangelical Christian entertainment conglomerate that would ever allow an artist to record a song like Don’t Blame God or Would You Crucify Him? today.

The first time I heard Would You Crucify Him? in 1979 on Firewind I cried. It struck my heart and I realized how easy it would be for me to be just like the Pharisees, Sadducees or the Imperial Church that used religion to keep power and crush the weak or those that questioned them.

Take the time to let the lyrics of the song set in. If you claim to be any kind of Christian please don’t blow them off.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5pAyKWbtOU

Sometimes, in the cool of the evenin’
Truth comes like a Lover in the wind
Sometimes, when my thoughts have gone misleadin’
She’ll ask that same old question once again…

Chorus:
Would you crucify Him
Would you crucify Him…, my old friend?
Would you crucify Him…, talking ’bout the sweet Lord Jesus
If He’d walk right here among you once again?

She’s askin’, How many times have you looked down to the harlot
Lookin’ through her tears, pretendin’ you don’t know?
For once you were just like her, how can you be now so self righteous
When in the name of the Lord you throw the first stone

So now I turn to you through your years of your robes and stained-glass windows
Do you vainly echo your prayers “to please the Lord?”
Profess the Marriage with your tongue, but your mind dreams like the harlot
But if the Judge looks to your thoughts can’t you guess your reward?

Would you crucify Him
Would you crucify Him…, my religious friend?
Would you crucify Him…, talking ’bout the sweet Lord Jesus
If He’d walk right here among you once again?

Yet how many times have you quoted from your Bible
To justify your eye for your eye and your tooth for your tooth?
You say that He didn’t mean what He was plainly sayin’
But like the Pharisee, my friend, you’re an educated fool!

Copyright John Michael Talbot 1979 from the Album Firewind

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Bringing Faith to the Faithless and Doubt to the Faithful

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I like hard questions and hard cases. My life has been quite interesting and that includes my faith journey as a Christian and human being. It is funny that in my life I have as I have grown older begun to appreciate those that do not believe and to rather distrust those who proclaim their religious faith with absolute certitude, especially when hard questions are asked.  Paul Tillich once said “Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful.” 

I think that the quote by the late theologian is quite appropriate to me and the ministry that I find myself. I think it is a ministry pattern quite similar to Jesus in his dealings with the people during his earthly incarnate ministry. He was always hanging out with the outcasts, whether they be Jewish tax collectors collaborating with the Romans, lepers and other “unclean” types, Gentiles including the hated Roman occupiers, Samaritans and most dangerously and scandalously women. He seemed to reach out to these outcasts while often going out of his way to upset the religious establishment and the “true believers” of his day. He was actually quite successful at this, so successful that his enemies made sure that they had him killed.

I think that what has brought me to this point is a combination of things but most importantly what happened to me in and after my tour in Iraq. Before I went to Iraq I was certain of about everything that I believed and was quite good at what we theologians and pastors call “apologetics.” My old Chaplain Assistant in the Army, who now recently serves as a Chaplain and was recently selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel called me a “Catholic Rush Limbaugh” back in 1997 and he meant it quite affectionately.  I was so good at it that I was silenced by a former Archbishop in my former church and banned from publishing for about 7 years. The funny thing is that he, and a number of my closest friends from that denomination are either Roman Catholic priests or priests in the Anglican Ordinariate which came into communion with Rome a couple of years back. Ironically while being “too Catholic” was the reason I was forbidden to write it was because I questioned certain traditions and beliefs of the Church including that I believed that there was a role for women in the ordained ministry, that gays and lesbians could be “saved” and that not all Moslems were bad that got me thrown out in 2010.

However when I returned from Iraq in the midst of a full blown emotional, spiritual and physical collapse from PTSD that certitude disappeared. It took a while before I was able to rediscover faith and life and when I did it wasn’t the same. There was much more mystery to faith as well as reason. I came out of that period with much more empathy for those that either struggle with or reject faith. Thus I tend to hang out at bars and ball games more than church activities or socials, which I find absolutely tedious. I also have little use for clergy than in dysfunctional and broken systems that are rapidly being left behind. I am not speaking about belief here, but rather structure and methodology.

I think that if there is anything that God will judge the American versions of the Christian church is our absolute need for temporal power in the political, economic and social realms and the propagation of religious empires that only enrich the clergy which doing nothing for the least, the lost and the lonely. The fact that the fastest growing religious identification in the United States is is “none” or “no preference” is proof of that and that the vast amounts of money needed to sustain these narcissistic religious empires, the mega-churches and “Christian” television industry will be their undoing.  That along with their lack of care for anyone but themselves. Jesus said that his disciples would be known by their love for one another, not the size of their religious empire or temporal power.

The interesting thing is that today I have friends and colleagues that span the theological spectrum. Many of these men even if they do not agree with what I believe trust me to love and care for them, even when those most like them in terms of belief or doctrine, both religious and political treat them like crap. Likewise I attract a lot of people who at one time were either in ministry or preparing for it who were wounded in the process and gave up, even to the point of doubting God’s love and even existence. It is kind of a nice feeling to be there for people because they do not have to agree with me for me to be there for them.

In my darkest times my only spiritual readings were Father Andrew Greeley’s Bishop Blackie Ryan mysteries which I began reading in Iraq to help me get through the nights in between missions in Iraq and through the nights when I returned from them.  In one of those books, the last of the series entitled “The Archbishop goes to Andalusia” the miscreant Auxiliary Bishop to the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago goes to Seville Spain.  In the novel Bishop Blackie makes a comment after celebrating Mass in the cathedral at Seville. He said “Every sacramental encounter is an evangelical occasion. A smile warm and happy is sufficient. If people return to the pews with a smile, it’s been a good day for them. If the priest smiles after the exchanges of grace, it may be the only good experience of the week.”  (The Archbishop in Andalusia p.77)

That is something that I try to do now on a regular basis. Sure most of my sacramental encounters as a hospital chaplain do not occur during the liturgy, but often in the life and death moments and times of deep discouragement felt by the wounded, ill and injured. In that ministry I have found that there are many hurting people, people who like me question their faith and even long held beliefs.

On my way home from taking my little dog Molly home from a visit to the vet this afternoon I heard the old song by Nazareth called Love Hurts. The song always gets me. It is one of those “real” songs from the 1960s and 1970s that nails how life can be sometimes.

Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds and mars
In any heart not tough
Nor strong enough
To take a lot of pain
To take a lot of pain
And love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts

I’m young and I know
But even so, I know a thing or two
I have learned from you
I’ve really learned a lot
I’ve really learned a lot
And love is like a stove
Burns you when it’s hot
Love hurts

Some fools rave of happiness
Of blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves, I guess
But they’re not fooling me
I know it isn’t true
I know it isn’t true
Love is just a lie
Made to make you blue
Love hurts

In 1977 a Christian singer, Erick Nelson included that song on an album called The Misfit and used it to lead into another song of his called He Gave Me Love. The album which he did as a duet with a lady named Michelle Pillar was always and still is one of my favorite albums. It was and still is one of the few works of “contemporary Christian music” to really deal with the hard questions of faith, including hurt, doubt and betrayal and the cost of following Jesus with any measure of authenticity. The song, the lyrics of which I include here are quite remarkable, because they talk about those themes.

When I was down, they wouldn’t stay
When I was hurt, they turned away
But Jesus called me and I must obey
He gave me love

You see, His friends all let Him down
And when He healed everyone around
All He got was a thorny crown
Because of love

Because of love for you
Because of life and truth
Because of love for you
Come take his love

Sometimes they laugh and are unkind
And others smile and say I’ve lost my mind
But all I know is what I find
And I find, He gave me love…

Love does hurt, and well deciding to love can bring a lot of pain, but I do think that it is worth it. Well, that is all for tonight. Until tomorrow.

Blessings and Peace

Padre Steve+

Love Hurts lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, HOUSE OF BRYANT PUBLICATIONS

HE GAVE ME LOVE Words and Music by Erick Nelson 1977 Maranatha! Music All rights reserved.

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Padre Steve’s Flashback to Early Contemporary Christian Music

Me, top row 3rd from right with Continental Singers Tour G 1979 at Mount Rushmore

I became an active Christian a few years after what is now called ContemporaryChristian Music came on the scene.  Back then it was simple called “Jesus Music.”  Over the last 35 years or so I have seen this genre of Christian music morph from a small segment of the music scene to a rather large and profitable industry. I really don’t listen to too much of the new stuff in fact unless the artist was around in the late 1970s or early 1980s I probably wouldn’t know anything about them or their music.

In those days it was still possible to hang out with groups when they came into town. In 1979 the group The Sweet Comfort Band came to my hometown, Stockton California for a series of concerts in local high schools (God forbid this happen today) culminating with a Friday night concert at one of the larger churches in town.  The guys were down to earth and real and talked about real life, even movies not just church.  That was eye opening because it kind of blew away my idea that “Christian” artist were somehow a step above the rest of us.  These guys showed me that Christians could be down to earth and able to relate to people.  I was able to meet others at the 1979 Continental Singers rehearsal camp as I prepared to go as a Spotlight Technician with the Continental Singers Tour G.

When this genre of music first came out the record labels that carried the new contemporary artists were either labels that had previously carried gospel singers such as Word and Light and start ups such as Maranatha! Music, Sparrow/Birdwing Music and Larry Norman’ Solid Rock Records.  When larger secular labels discovered that there was money to be made they acquired most of these labels giving them more visibility but I think less independence than they had previously.

The music was as diverse and the artists performing the songs, everything from rock and country rock, to jazz and middle of the road music.  Some artists had been successful secular recording artists before becoming Christians or rediscovering the faith that they had grown up with.  The music varied in quality, some groups were very good and even pushed the edges of artistic license allowed in Evangelical Christianity while others were not that good and were pushed into the limelight because they had long hair and played guitars.  Some of the bands such as Love Song would achieve a certain status in Contemporary Christian music that long outlived the length of time that they were in existence.  Some bands were one album wonders while some like Daniel Amos remained together for many years.

As the genre grew a sub-genre of contemporary praise and worship music grew out of Calvary Chapel beginning with an album called The Praise Album. These were simple worship songs that small groups especially youth groups and college age groups could easily sing with just a guitar. They fit what John Wesley said about hymns was that they must be easily sung and not complicated.  As such they grew in popularity and many other churches and recording labels got in on the game in opinion saturating the market with music that is only remarkable in its poor quality and insipid theology.  The theology in most of the early songs was simple, based around Jesus and God’s love and not written to advance quasi politic agendas. There was not the warlike quality of many of today’s so called “worship music.”  I know that some will rake me over the coals for this but I have a hard time calling something worship when it is nothing more than a rally or fight song.  Some of these early songs are here: Freely, Freely http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCLconoyX9I As the Deer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvQwvDfY5dk&p=90917541439498D0&playnext=1&index=82 In His Time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pjab00qQG3k&feature=related, Karen Lafferty’s Seek Ye First http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LMQfOp9w8k&feature=related The Servant King http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwIukabdw3E and the Spirit Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqkvIhs7Ijg

But in this essay I’m going to go back in time and look at some of the early artists and their music beginning in the early 1970s and ending in the mid-1980s.  This is kind of an arbitrary line because in 1984 I left the United States for a three year tour with the Army in Germany where I lost track of most of what was going on in Christian music and when I returned did not find the newer artists as much to my liking.  For me it was simply a matter of musical preference.  It is hard to find much of this music now. Many songs were only on LPs and produced in limited quantities. Since many were obscure and this was before the digital age very few video recordings exist for many groups.  As such some people have taken audios and mixed them with slide shows or videos or the videos are from “reunion” type concerts 20-30 years after the songs were first introduced.

The revolution in Christian music began in Costa Mesa California at a little country church called Calvary Chapel. The church made the effort to reach the “hippies” that hung around the beach towns including many musicians. The group Love Song was perhaps the first group to reach any form of national prominence and their songs such as Little Country Church http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZkWrn9SXwo&feature=related, and Two Hands http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW12P7upc6o&feature=related became early examples of how the music could be popular and contemporary.  The lead singer of the group Chuck Girard went solo and made a number of albums but Rock and Roll Preacher was one of his signature songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_I3R3tC6Rk&feature=related

Other Calvary Chapel Groups that recorded on the new Maranatha! Music lable included the Children of the Day who released For those Tears I Died http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np8GJGZ3Vv8 Mustard Seed Faith who released Sail on Sailor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPDAC4-ZkEc&feature=related the country rock band Bethlehem and Desert Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMkpLzomcxM&feature=related as well as Bill Sprouse and The Road Home who had one song that made the group before Sprouse died, the song  Psalm 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gJ2XPDf_jE and The Way who produced two albums under Marantha one of their songs being Song of Joy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77Le6G63eZY .

Two other groups Daniel Amos and the Sweet Comfort Band also hailed from the early days of Maranatha Music.  Both groups endured and although they had different music styles they could both have fun with their music as well as make provocative statements about the church and how Christians related to society.  Daniel Amos initially was a country rock band with a sound somewhat similar to the Eagles.  They would retain some of this but moved on to some of the more cutting edge New Wave Rock styles of the 1980s.  Their signature album was Shotgun Angel a country rock album with a side two that was a mini concert about the Second Coming of Christ from a Pre-Tribulation Dispensational theology understanding, an understanding that was quite common in the groups of that day. That album included Black Gold Fever,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZkWrn9SXwo&feature=related, Shotgun Angel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFD8_-v4bhw&feature=related, Posse in the Sky http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwa5gep9CBc&feature=related and Fall in Your Father’s Arms http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOTar60srFg&feature=related.  Their First Album include one of my favorite songs of the ear I Ain’t Gonna Fight it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=intea3oCcDk Later releases include the albums Horrendous Disc and Alarma! The song I Believe in You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMkpLzomcxM&feature=related from Horrendous Disc and Walls of Doubt http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbFTcGAAQkk&feature=related from Alarma! Interestingly enough Daniel Amos is considered by some to be one of the best bands from a creativity standpoint in the 1980s Christian or secular.  The group stayed together and after they broke up Terry Taylor the leader of the group formed other bands including The Swirling Eddies and the Lost Dogs. One of the more interesting songs of the Swirling Eddies is Hide the Beer the Pastor’s Herehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b74VWclpH6c which deals with some of the hypocrisy of some Christians who will condemn someone for drinking yet excuse all sorts of other unseemly behaviors.

A second group from the Maranatha label was the Sweet Comfort Band. This band led by Bryan Duncan and Randy Thomas had a light jazz and rock style that featured Randy Thomas Jazz Guitar and brothers Kevin Thompson’s Alembic 5 string bass guitar and Rick Thompson’s drums.  The group produced a number of albums before they broke up in the late 1980s with Bryan Duncan going solo. They have on occasion gotten together in reunion concerts though Kevin Thomas died in May of this year.  Their first album Sweet Comfort which came out on the Maranatha label included Childish Things http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R8wY0DCI3A&feature=related When I was Alone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbFTcGAAQkk&feature=related It’s so Fine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igp9WJ7QLUE&feature=related and Get Ready http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EhcPuwBvZg where Kevin had a great bass solo.  They left Maranatha and signed with Light Music where they made a number of albums including Breakin’ the Ice which featured Breakin’ the Ice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ4cddT0Eh0&p=20C05334BBE82D2F&playnext=1&index=1, Good Felling http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJWwcRYT1p4 and Got to Believe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3x7Myegr24 Other later albums featured songs like Ride the Tide http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8oSc7jY288&feature=related

The interesting thing was that many Christians had a hard time with both Daniel Amos and the Sweet Comfort Band.  The members of SBC were frequently berated for their jazz, rock, funk style by Christians who felt that the style was “of the Devil” and both groups frequently played for free on places like the Sunset Strip because they felt it was more important to play for non-believers than believers. Wow, imagine that? When one looks at much of what is called “Contemporary Christian Music” now these groups stand in stark contrast. They were not playing for the approval and entertainment of Christians.

Other artists emerged outside of Calvary Chapel, some who had been successful in their own right prior to becoming Christians such as Barry McGuire who had been with Credence Clearwater Revival, had been in the musical Hair and had his own hit Eve of Destruction for which he is best known.  McGuire’s music is harder to find online and much of what is now available comes from a series of concerts with Peter York, Phil Keaggy, Terry Talbot and others on the music of the 1960s.  However Eve of Destruction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntLsElbW9Xo and his post conversion song Calling me Home http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxoRzqZnP98&feature=related make for interesting listening. Barry still tours and is still entertaining. I remember seeing him a number of times in Sacramento in the late 1970s at a church called The Warehouse.


McGuire recorded on the Sparrow label founded by Buck Herring.  The label also featured the long lived Second Chapter of Acts who performed such memorable songs as Mansion Builder http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmxcotW-O0w and the Easter Song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gggPpVtEKQ&feature=related,

and Keith Green the Jewish convert to Christianity who wrote Make my Life a Prayer to You http://vodpod.com/watch/2188390-keith-green-make-my-life-a-prayer-to-you-subtitles He’ll take Care of the Rest http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAe0q21YgTQ&feature=related, The Victor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wil0PBylyW0&feature=related and When I Hear the Praises Start http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIgVU_5FsqA&feature=related. Green would produce many songs that have endured among his fans and those that wound never see him in person.  Green had a hard edge to his message and died in a private plane crash with two of his children in the summer of 1982.  His wife Melody carries on his musical legacy.

Another artist on the label was John Michale Talbot who along with his brother Terry had been founding members of the group Mason Proffit before becoming Christians.  John Michael produced two albums on the label before his conversion to Roman Catholicism where he became a lay Franciscan.  He remained on the label for years producing albums which helped introduce a generation of contemporary Christian listeners to the liturgy and Catholic spirituality.  His album The Lord’s Supper was a breakthrough as he adapted music from the Mass into a beautiful album.  His adaptation of the Apostle’s Creed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxACNt-QRAo was amazing in its musical style and difficulty and his Holy is His Name http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aYecuDlDYM is an enduring classic.  Talbot’s brother Terry also recorded on Sparrow one song which is entitled No Longer Alone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xR0KBRO-e7g

Other artists included Larry Norman who might be considered the first Christian rocker and Randy Stonehill who recorded on Norman’s Solid Rock label. Norman is best known for his songs The Rock that Doesn’t Roll http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzB638GRfJ0&feature=PlayList&p=44A2023098B233CF&index=0&playnext=1 I’d Wish we’d All Been Ready http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1FcTKNXlO0 and Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWh8-FPelHU&feature=related

His friend Randy Stonehill wrote songs like King of Hearts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1Q0RO3yi8Y&feature=related, First Prayer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmhsY7NeFhM&feature=related Keep me Running http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP2dB208ISI&feature=related and Song for Sarah. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crDIHKaMwyA&feature=related Norman died in 2008 after a long illness and Stonehill has continued to produce often touching on topics that other Christian artists fear to tackle.

Guitarist Phil Keaggy has had a long and illustrious career in both Christian and secular music with his song Your Love Broke Through being among my favorites. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wil0PBylyW0&feature=related

Paul Clark and Liberation Suite brought an English twist to the genre, this song Make a Joyful Noise was taped during their 1976 European tour http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYfa4iQg8e4 while the Pat Terry Group produced You’d be There http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWMBV0WoTeI&feature=related and Don Francisco recorded the classic He’s Alive! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2slLdaK5Wg&feature=related Amy Grant produced many albums beginning in the late 1970s and still remains popular. Song’s like My Father’s Eyes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmOEJXNtF0E and El Shaddai http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYcEHguYwtc&feature=related remain hits to this day.  Likewise Evie Tourquist (Karlsson) was incredibly popular, especially with young Christian guys in the mid to late 1970s and the song Pass it On http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHQLRm_O9mU was a staple of many high school groups.

Other groups have passed into obscurity with their albums nearly impossible to find.  The early “Jesus Music” often produced in primitive studios was certainly sincere it varied in quality as well as theological content. At the same time the early artists pioneered new ways of expressing their faith in music which has influenced the music of churches that in the 1970s considered such music to still be “the Devil’s music.”  I could go on to write about other artists but most of those came later and really don’t fall into the early years that I am trying to limit this musical essay to, but the fact is that these artists as well as others changed Christian music.  The impact has been mixed while there is much positive in the music many Christians and churches threw out their musical and theological heritage in the rush to become more relevant. Likewise the absorption of Christian music labels into secular labels which were later acquired by multinational entertainment groups is not necessarily a good thing because those corporations are totally profit driven and undoubtedly influenced the content, theology and style of the music produced by current artists causing some of the older artists to become independents.

Padre Steve and Judy back in the Day

I guess in the long run we will see the fruit of this movement, the good and the bad and hopefully the good will outweigh the bad and maybe, just maybe the music will again be the music of the church and not merely of publishing houses that sell a product to churches.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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