I was born in the 80s, a child of the 90s, coming of age in the millennium. But my heart belongs to an earlier day–or more like many earlier days.
Nothing takes me back to my childhood (and beyond) like the sound of the earliest Christian rock, 70s rock–the likes of Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill.
My mom and dad’s LPs that we listened to endlessly.
Larry Norman’s “In Another Land” (1975):
Turning back the table once again to enjoy our favorites.
“He’s a rock that doesn’t roll
He’s a rock that doesn’t roll
Well He’s good for the body
and great for the soul
He’s a rock that doesn’t roll!”
“He’s an unidentified flyin’ object
You will see Him in the air…
And if there’s life on other planets
Then I’m sure that He must know
and He’s been there once already
and has died to save their souls.”
And of course, trying our hand at the glorious harmonies of “Righteous Rocker #3” while Mom tells us stories of her college buddies who would break out into harmony while walking through campus.
“You can be a righteous rocker
Or a holy roller
You can be most anything
You could be a child of a slum
Or a skidrow bum
You can be an earthly king
But without love
you ain’t nothing
Without love you ain’t nothin’
Chuck Girard’s “Chuck Girard” (1975):
Crying for the girl from Tinagera. Crying in worship to “Sometimes Alleluia”. Walkin’ by the Sea, the Sea of Galilee. Rockin’ out to “Rock’n’Roll Preacher.”
Randy Stonehill’s “Welcome to Paradise” (1976):
Already a budding health activist, belting out the lyrics to “Lung Cancer”.
“She went down to the corner store
And bought a pack of filter kings
Don’t you know tomorrow she’ll be back for more
Cause she really likes to smoke those things
And every time that she inhales a cloud of that cigarette smoke
She’s just one step closer to the man in black
And 60 cents closer to broke
She’s been working on lung cancer,
Emphysema, a cardiac arrest…
She’s been smokin’ that C-I-G-A-R-E-T-T-E”
Meanwhile, Anna and Josh enjoyed the much more beautiful and poetic “Puppet Strings”.
“We are all foolish puppets
Who, desiring to be king,
Now lie pitifully crippled
after cutting all our strings.
But God said I’ll forgive you
and face you man to man
And win your love again.
O how can there be possibly
a greater gift of love
Than dying for a friend?”
2nd Chapter of Acts’ “Mansion Builder” (1978):
Joshua singing Matthew to Anna’s Annie, harmonizing beautifully to “Mansion Builder”.
“So why should I worry?
Why should I fret?
‘Cause I’ve got a mansion-builder
Who ain’t through with me yet.”
Lamb’s “Lamb I” (1972):
Joshua singing along with his favorite band, his child’s voice mingling with Joel Chernoff’s tenor:
“The sacrifice lamb has been slain
His blood on the altar a stain
To wipe away guilt and pain,
To bring hope eternal.
Salvation has come to the world;
God’s only Son to the world;
Jesus the One for the world–
Yeshua is He.”
The songs that take me back, that make me remember the wholehearted enthusiasm of three little children digging through Mom and Dad’s records. The songs that remind me of the days when we spent hours luxuriating in melody and harmony and rhythm. When we pored over the record sleeves, enjoying the long-haired hippyness of the Jesus-music, enjoying the poetry and occasional childishness of the lyrics and tunes.
These artists created Christian music as we know it today. They were decried as singing “devil music” because the music was syncopated–a Gothard anathema. They started their own labels to create a niche for themselves, unwilling to “let the devil have all the good music” (in the words of Larry Norman). And so began Christian rock.
But we have forgotten them along the way, now in our world where Christian music is ordinary, mundane, (in my opinion) boring. It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a day, the idea of Christian rock and roll was revolutionary. These were the pioneers. They dared to think that modern music could be a medium for the Christian artist. And they created true art. The art that fed my child soul.