Christian rock

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Christian rock is a form of rock music that features lyrics focusing on matters of Christian faith, often with an emphasis on Jesus, typically performed by self-proclaimed Christian individuals. The extent to which their lyrics are explicitly Christian varies between bands. Many bands who perform Christian rock have ties to the contemporary Christian music labels, media outlets, and festivals, while other bands are independent.

Contents

History

Christian response to early rock music (1950s–1960s)

Most traditional and fundamentalist Christians did not view rock music favorably when it became popular with young people from the 1950s, even though country and gospel music often influenced early rock music. In 1952 Archibald Davison, a Harvard professor, summed up the sound of traditional Christian music and why its supporters might not like rock music when he wrote of "... a rhythm that avoids strong pulses; a melody whose physiognomy is neither so characteristic nor so engaging as to make an appeal in its own behalf; counterpoint, which cultivates long-breathed eloquence rather than instant and dramatic effect; a chromaticism which is at all times restricted in amount and lacking in emotionalism; and modality which creates an atmosphere unmistakably ecclesiastical". [1] In the light of Archibald Davison's characterisation it is easy to see how different these two genres of music are. Christians in many[ which? ] regions of the United States did not want their children exposed to music with unruly, impassioned vocals, loud guitar-riffs and jarring, hypnotic rhythms. Rock and roll differed from the norm, and thus it was seen[ by whom? ] as a threat. [2] Often the music was overtly sexual in nature, as in the case of Elvis Presley, who became controversial and massively popular partly for his suggestive stage antics and dancing. However, "Elvis" was a religious person who released a gospel album: Peace in the Valley [3] in 1957. Individual Christians may[ original research? ] have listened to or even performed rock music in many cases, but conservative church establishments - particularly in the American South - regarded it as anathema.

He Touched Me, a 1972 gospel-music album by Elvis Presley, sold over 1 million copies in the US alone and earned Presley his second of three Grammy Awards. Not counting compilations, it was his third and final album devoted exclusively to gospel music. The song "He Touched Me" was written in 1963 by Bill Gaither, an American singer and songwriter of southern gospel and Contemporary Christian music.

In the 1960s rock music developed artistically, attained worldwide popularity and became associated with the radical counterculture, firmly alienating many[ quantify ] Christians. In 1966 The Beatles, regarded[ by whom? ] as one of the most popular and influential rock-bands of their era, ran into trouble with many of their American fans when John Lennon jokingly offered his opinion that Christianity was dying and that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now". [4] [5] The romantic, melodic rock songs of the band's early career had formerly been viewed[ by whom? ] as relatively inoffensive, but after the remark, churches nationwide organized Beatles-record burnings and Lennon was forced[ by whom? ] to apologize. [6] Subsequently, the Beatles and most rock musicians experimented with a more complex, psychedelic style of music that frequently used anti-establishment, drug-related, or sexual lyrics, while The Rolling Stones sang "Sympathy for the Devil" (1968), a song openly written from the point of view of Satan. Allegations of Satanic intent also arose from the Beatles and others of the controversial backmasking recording-technique. This further increased Christian opposition to rock music.

Later in the 1960s the escalating Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Paris student riots of 1968 and other events served as catalysts for youth activism and political withdrawal or protest, which became associated with rock bands, whether or not they were openly political. Moreover, many[ quantify ] saw the music as promoting a lifestyle of promiscuous "sex, drugs and rock and roll", also reflected in the behavior of many rock stars. However, there was growing recognition of the diverse musical and ideological potential of rock.[ citation needed ] Countless new bands sprang up in the mid-to-late 1960s, as rock displaced older, smoother pop styles to become the dominant form of pop music, a position it would enjoy almost continuously until the end of the 20th century, when hip-hop eclipsed it in sales.

Roots (late 1960s–1980s)

Among the first bands that played Christian rock was The Crusaders, a Southern Californian garage rock band, whose November 1966 Tower Records album Make a Joyful Noise with Drums and Guitars is considered one of the first gospel rock releases, [7] or even "the first record of Christian rock", [8] and Mind Garage, "arguably the first band of its kind", [9] whose 1967 Electric Liturgy was recorded in 1969 at RCA's "Nashville Sound" studio. [10] Both of these recordings were preceded by the rockabilly praise LP I Like God's Style, written and performed by one 16-year-old Isabel Baker and released on the private Wichita, Kansas Romco label in 1965, which no one published on until the 2000s. [11]

Larry Norman, often described as the "father of Christian rock music", [12] and in his later years "the Grandfather of Christian rock", [13] who, in 1969 recorded and released Upon This Rock , "the first commercially released Jesus rock album", [14] challenged a view held by some conservative Christians (predominantly fundamentalists) that rock music was anti-Christian. One of his songs, "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" summarized his attitude and his quest to pioneer Christian rock music. [15] A cover version of Larry Norman's Rapture-themed "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" appears in the Evangelical Christian feature film A Thief in the Night and appeared on Cliff Richard's Christian album Small Corners along with "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?". Another Christian rock pioneer, Randy Stonehill, released his first album in 1971, the Larry Norman-produced Born Twice . [16] [17] In the most common pressing of the album, side one is entirely a live performance. [18]

Randy Stonehill's "Welcome To Paradise" (1976) WelcomeToParadiseStonehill.jpg
Randy Stonehill's "Welcome To Paradise" (1976)

Another early Christian rock album was Mylon (We Believe) by Mylon LeFevre, son of members of the southern gospel group The LeFevres. He recorded the album with members of Classics IV and released it through Cotillion Records in 1970. [19] [20]

In the late 1970s Christian rock received mainstream exposure, as Bob Dylan became a born-again Christian and released three albums between 1979 and 1981. This period would yield the Grammy winning single "Gotta Serve Somebody" and three successful concert tours that would later see release as The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 .

Christian rock was often viewed as a marginal part of the nascent contemporary Christian music (CCM) and contemporary gospel industry in the 1970s and 1980s, [21] though Christian folk rock artists like Bruce Cockburn and rock fusion artists like Phil Keaggy had some cross-over success. Petra and Resurrection Band, two of the bands who brought harder rock into the early CCM community, had their origins in the early to mid-1970s. They reached their height in popularity in the late eighties alongside other Christian-identifying hard rock acts such as Stryper. The latter had videos played on MTV, one being "To Hell with the Devil", and even saw some airtime on mainstream radio stations with their hit song "Honestly". Christian rock has proved less successful in the UK and Europe, although such artists as Bryn Haworth have found commercial success by combining blues and mainstream rock music with Christian themes.

1990s–present

The 1990s saw an explosion of Christian rock.

Many of the popular 1990s Christian bands were initially identified as "Christian alternative rock", including Jars of Clay, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline and the later albums of DC Talk. Outside Anglophone countries, bands like Oficina G3 (Brazil) and The Kry (Quebec, Canada) have achieved moderate success. To date Delirious? has been one of the most successful bands from the UK.

Jars of Clay in concert, 2007. Jars of Clay.jpg
Jars of Clay in concert, 2007.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the success of Christian-inspired acts like Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Decyfer Down, Underoath, Kutless, Disciple, P.O.D., Switchfoot, and Relient K saw a shift toward mainstream exposure in the Christian rock scene.

Among popular Christian rock bands of the first decade of the 21st century that exemplified this trend were RED and Fireflight.

There are also some Roman Catholic bands such as Critical Mass. Some Eastern Orthodox Christian rock groups, mostly from Russia and the Soviet Union, started performing in the late 1980s and 1990s. Alisa [22] and Black Coffee [23] are credited as the most prominent examples. The Orthodox Christian lyrics of these bands often overlap with historical and patriotic songs about Kievan Rus'.

The musical genre that was once rejected by mainstream Christian churches is now considered by some as one of the most-important evangelism tool of their successor congregations. According to Terri McLean, author of New Harmonies, old-guard churches (United Methodist is given as an example) of the late 1990s were experiencing a rapid decline in membership and were under threat of disbandment within the next decade, a trend that has been going on since the 1980s. [24] McLean, using numerous quotes from theologians, Christian apologists and professors, goes on to offer contemporary Christian music as the reason for the falling popularity of more traditionalist churches. [25] The definition of contemporary Christian, as offered by New Harmonies, is of a genre not far removed from traditional hymns; it is simply more accessible. The reality is that while a form of modernized hymns do exist in today's churches and do affect church evangelism and growth, there also exists both within and outside these churches a form of music (Christian rock) that has only one element in common with previous religious genres: its worship of God.

This element, the worship of God, is what was originally removed from or hidden within the lyrics of early, secular rock n' roll. Santino described one method of changing Christian lyrics as a process that transformed “lyrics that sang of the mystical love of God into lyrics that celebrated the earthly love of woman”. [26] Howard & Streck offer examples of this, comparing Ray Charles' “This Little Girl of Mine” to “This Little Light of Mine” and “Talking About You” to “Talking About Jesus”. They claim that because of actions such as this, despite the liberal editing of the original hymns, “gospel 'showed rock how to sing'”. [27] Howard & Streck go on to describe how the conflict between music and religion, spearheaded by southern fundamentalists, was originally racially based, but how in the sixties this moved on to a clash over the perceived lifestyle of rock musicians. [28]

Definitions

There are multiple definitions of what qualifies as a "Christian rock" band. Christian rock bands that explicitly state their beliefs and use religious imagery in their lyrics, like Servant, Third Day, and Petra, tend to be considered a part of the contemporary Christian music (CCM) industry. [29]

Other bands perform music influenced by their faith or containing Christian imagery, but see their audience as the general public. For example, Bono of U2 combines many elements of spirituality and faith into his lyrics, but the band is not directly labeled as a "Christian rock" band. [30]

Such bands are sometimes rejected by the CCM rock scene and may specifically reject the CCM label. Other bands may experiment with more abrasive musical styles. Beginning in the 1990s and 2000s there was much wider acceptance even by religious purists of Christian metal, Christian industrial and Christian punk. Many of these bands are on predominantly Christian record labels, such as Tooth and Nail Records and Facedown Records.

Rock artists, such as Switchfoot, [31] [32] do not claim to be "Christian bands", but include members who openly profess to be Christians or at times may feature Christian thought, imagery, scripture or other influences in their music.

I'm an artist who's a Christian, because I don't write music to be evangelical. Now, if that happens, it happens.

Scott Stapp, lead vocalist for Creed [33]

Some of these bands, like Creed played up the spiritual content of their music and were widely considered a "Christian band" by the popular media. Some bands reject the label because they do not wish to exclusively attract Christian fans, or because they have been identified with another particular music genre, such as heavy metal or indie rock.

Evangelism

The aims for making Christian music vary among different artists and bands. Often, the music makes evangelistic calls for Christian forms of praise and worship. Accompanying such music, street outreach, local festivities, church functions, and many alternative forms of internal or (soulful) expression may occur.

Some Christian artists as Third Day, Kutless, Thousand Foot Krutch and Disciple have sung songs that carry overtly Christian messages. Bands such as Underoath, Blessthefall and Haste the Day incorporate symbolism and Christian messages more indirectly. [34] [35] Bands such as Flyleaf do not call themselves Christian bands, though they state that their Christian faith affects their lyrics. [36] [37] Bands such as Switchfoot have said they try to write music for both Christians and non-Christians alike. [38] [39] [40]

Festivals

Festivals range from single day events to multiple-day festivals that provide camping and other activities.

One of the first in the US was the six-day Explo '72 held in Dallas, Texas in June 1972 that was attended by around 80,000 people with around 100,000 150,000 at the final concert and which featured acts such as Larry Norman, The Archers, Love Song, Randy Matthews, Children of the Day, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.

Significant festivals in the US are Creation Festival, Ichthus Festival, and Cornerstone Festival. There is also a festival in Orlando, Florida called Rock the Universe, a two-day festival at Universal Orlando Resort that overlaps with the Night of Joy event at Walt Disney World. Ichthus, currently held in Kentucky, is a three-day festival that involves over 65 bands.

There are also many in the UK, including Greenbelt Festival, Soul Survivor, BigChurchDayOut, 'Ultimate Events' at Alton Towers, Frenzy in Edinburgh and Creation Fest, Woolacombe, Devon, which is not related to Creationfest in the United States.

The Flevo Festival of The Netherlands, which offers seminars, theater, stand-up comedy, sports and movies as well as Christian music from a wide variety of genres, is considered to be one of the biggest Christian festivals in Europe. [41] [42] [43] It was discontinued in 2013, due to financial issues.[ citation needed ] It has been unofficially restarted by a collection of Christian organizations who previously collaborated on Flevo Festival under the new name of Flavor Festival.[ citation needed ]

Skjærgårdsfestivalen is an annual music festival held in Norway, which headlines Christian rock bands.[ citation needed ]

Many events are held in Australia called, Easterfest (in Toowoomba) Encounterfest, Jam United, Black Stump and Big Exo Day.[ citation needed ] Bogotá, Colombia hosts the summer festival Gospel al Parque.[ citation needed ]

The most "underground" expression of Christian rock was the annual Cornerstone Festival sponsored by the Jesus People USA, a community which formed during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s. The festival ceased operations in 2012. [44]

See also

Related Research Articles

Randy Stonehill American musician

Randall Evan "Randy" Stonehill is an American singer and songwriter from Stockton, California, best known as one of the pioneers of contemporary Christian music. His music is primarily folk rock in the style of James Taylor, but some of his albums have focused on new wave, pop, pop rock, roots rock, and children's music.

Larry Norman American musician

Larry David Norman was an American musician, singer, songwriter, record label owner, and record producer. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of Christian rock music, and released more than 100 albums.

Switchfoot American alternative rock band

Switchfoot is an American rock band from San Diego, California. The band's members are Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, and Drew Shirley. After early successes in the Christian rock scene, Switchfoot first gained mainstream recognition with the inclusion of four of their songs in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember. This recognition led to their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, which was released in 2003 and featured the hits "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move". The album sold over 2.6 million copies. They have since been noted for their energetic live shows, and their seventh studio album Hello Hurricane received a Grammy award in 2011 for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album.

Contemporary Christian music Genre of modern popular music

Contemporary Christian music is a genre of modern popular music which is lyrically focused on matters concerned with the Christian faith. It formed as those affected by the 1960s Jesus movement revival began to express themselves in a more contemporary style of music than the hymns, Gospel and Southern gospel music that was prevalent in the church at the time. Today, the term is typically used to refer to pop, rock, or praise & worship styles.

Jesus music, known as gospel beat music in the United Kingdom, is a style of Christian music that originated on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This musical genre developed in parallel to the Jesus movement. It outlasted the movement that spawned it and the Christian music industry began to eclipse it and absorb its musicians around 1975.

The Jesus movement was an evangelical Christian movement beginning on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s and spreading primarily throughout North America, Europe, and Central America, before subsiding by the late 1980s. Members of the movement were called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks.

The Christian music industry is a small part of the larger music industry, that focuses on traditional Gospel music, Southern gospel, contemporary Christian music, and alternative Christian music. It is sometimes called the gospel music industry, although this designation is not a limitation on the musical styles represented.

Christian metal, also known as white metal, Jesus metal or heavenly metal, is a form of heavy metal music usually defined by its message using song lyrics as well as the dedication of the band members to Christianity. Christian metal is typically performed by professed Christians principally for Christians who listen to heavy metal music and often produced and distributed through various Christian networks.

Christian music music with Christian theme

Christian music is music that has been written to express either personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life and faith. Common themes of Christian music include praise, worship, penitence, and lament, and its forms vary widely across the world.

Solid Rock Records is a record label started by Larry Norman. It was established in 1975 to distribute his work after he had been released by Capitol Records. Solid Rock had a distribution deal with Word Records until 1980.

Petra (band) Christian rock band from the United States

Petra is a music group regarded as a pioneer of the Christian rock and contemporary Christian music genres. Formed in 1972, the band took its name from the Greek word for "rock". Though it disbanded formally in 2006, incarnations have played reunion shows in the years since and released two albums in November 2010, and in November 2017. In 2013, it reformed with a new drummer, Cristian Borneo, and recorded a new song titled "Holy is Your Name", before going back on tour.

Mylon R. LeFevre is an American Christian rock singer best known for his work with his band Mylon and Broken Heart. He is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. He currently travels around the United States, ministering, teaching and singing. He sometimes can be seen on television networks, such as TBN and Daystar.

Jesus Freak (song) single by DC Talk

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<i>Upon This Rock</i> (Larry Norman album) 1969 studio album by Larry Norman

Upon This Rock is the debut solo album by pioneering Christian rock musician Larry Norman, released in 1969. It is considered to be "the first full-blown Christian rock album" and was produced by Hal Yoergler.

Between You and Me 1996 single by DC Talk

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Christian ska is a form of Christian alternative rock, and subgenre of ska and ska-punk which is lyrically oriented toward contemporary Christian music. Though ska did not constitute a genre within the Christian music industry until after third wave ska had peaked in the general market, Christian ska continued to thrive independently into the early 2000s.

Reba Rambo is an American Christian singer and songwriter. She is a Grammy and Dove Award winner.

<i>On the Altar of Love</i> 2011 studio album by downhere

On the Altar of Love is the sixth official album release from contemporary Christian music band downhere. The album won the 2012 Juno Award for Best Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year.

<i>Resuscitate</i> (album) 2012 studio album by Remedy Drive

Resuscitate is the third studio album by contemporary Christian music band Remedy Drive. It was released on September 18, 2012 through Centricity Music. The album was produced by Peter Kipley at The Bomb Shelter in Brentwood, Tennessee.

References

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  22. Newsweek. A Russian Woodstock.
    Once an anti-establishment rebel, Kinchev's most recent work includes Orthodox Christian rock and Russian patriotic songs.
  23. Encyclopaedia Metallum. Black Coffee
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Further reading