- Christian rock
Christian rock Stylistic origins Rock music, Jesus music, Christian music Cultural origins Late 1960s, U.S. Typical instruments Vocals, Guitar, Electric Guitar, Drums, Keyboards, Organ, Bass Guitar Mainstream popularity 1980s—present Subgenres Christian metal - Christian punk Fusion genres Christian alternative rock - Christian hardcore Other topics Christian hip hop
Christian rock is a form of rock music played by individuals and bands whose members are Christians and who often focus the lyrics on matters concerned with the Christian faith. 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.
Christian response to rock music (1950s-1960s)
Rock and roll music was not viewed favorably by most traditional and fundamentalist Christians when it became popular with young people from the 1950s, although early rock music was often influenced by country and gospel music. Religious people in many regions of the United States did not want their children exposed to music with unruly, impassioned vocals, loud guitar riffs and jarring, hypnotic rhythms. 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. Individual Christians may have listened to or even performed rock music in many cases, but it was seen as anathema to conservative church establishments, particularly in the American South.
He Touched Me was a 1972 gospel music album by Elvis Presley which 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 Christians. In 1966 The Beatles, regarded 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". The romantic, melodic rock songs of the band's early career had formerly been viewed as relatively inoffensive, but after the remark, churches nationwide organized Beatles record burnings and Lennon was forced to apologize. Subsequently the Beatles experimented with a more complex, psychedelic style of music and anti-establishment lyrics, while The Rolling Stones sang "Sympathy for the Devil", a song openly written from the point of view of Satan.
As the decade continued, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Paris student riots 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 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. 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 finally eclipsed it in sales.
Roots (late 1960s-1980s)
Among the nation's 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, or even "the first record of Christian rock", and Mind Garage, "arguably the first band of its kind", whose 1967 Electric Liturgy was recorded in 1969 at RCA's "Nashville Sound" studio.
Larry Norman, often described as the "father of Christian rock music", and in his later years "the Grandfather of Christian rock", who, in 1969 recorded and released Upon This Rock, "the first commercially released Jesus rock album", 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. 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. In the most common pressing of the album, side one is entirely a live performance.
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.
Christian rock was often viewed as a marginal part of the nascent Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and contemporary gospel industry in the 1970s and '80s, 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 along side 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.
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, 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. One of the most successful bands from the UK was the band Delirious?. This decade also saw a notable boom in the Christian / R&B / Hip Hop / Rap, and the Christian / Punk / Pop, and Christian / Metal / Death Metal circles.
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the success of Christian-inspired acts like Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Decyfer Down, Underoath, Kutless, Disciple 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 was RED.
Christian rock has primarily been a Protestant phenomenon, but 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 and Black Coffee are credited as the most prominent examples. The Orthodox Christian lyrics of these bands often overlap with historical and patriotic songs about ancient Rus. Christian rock is on the rise in the Russian music underground in 2000s, and Orgia Pravednikov is one of the most notable happenings.
The musical genre that was once rejected by mainstream Christian churches is now the most-important recruitment 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. 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. 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 have an impact on church recruitment, 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”. 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'”. 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.
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 and play for a predominantly Christian market.
Other bands perform music influenced by their faith or containing Christian imagery, but see their audience as the general public. They may avoid specific mention of God or Jesus, or they may write more personal, cryptic, or humorous lyrics concerning their faith rather than direct praise songs.
Such bands are sometimes rejected by the CCM rock scene and may specifically reject the CCM label, however many have been accepted as Christian bands. Other bands may experiment with more abrasive musical styles, which until recently met with resistance from the CCM scene. However, 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, 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.
Some of these bands, like Creed and R3D played up the spiritual content of their music and were widely considered a "Christian band" by the popular media, despite their later disavowals of the label. 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, and feel more creative kinship with members of that scene.
The aims for making Christian music vary among different artists and bands. Often, the music makes evangelist 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. Since 2001 such Christian artists as Third Day, Kutless, Thousand Foot Krutch, and Disciple have sung songs that carry overtly Christian messages, incorporating lyrics that directly focus on Jesus. Many bands of this type give time for conversion messages during concerts.
Other bands, such as Underoath, Blessthefall, and Haste the Day incorporate symbolism and Christian messages in a less direct way to draw in non-Christian and Christian listeners to their music.
Other bands do not necessarily call themselves Christian bands, although the members are usually all professing Christians. They have spiritual or at least "positive" lyrics. The members say that their Christian faith affects their music. Bands such as Switchfoot have said they try to write music for both Christians and non-Christians alike. However, they do not attempt to evangelize or proselytize.
Festivals range from single day events to multiple-day festivals that provide camping and other activities.
One of the first in the USA 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 USA 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. In Buffalo, New York, the annual four-day Kingdom Bound festival at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort attracts more than 55,000 Christians annually.
There are also many in the UK, including Greenbelt Festival (the largest of UK Christian festivals) , Soul Survivor, '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. Another large festival in the northern Europe is Skjærgårdsfestivalen in Norway.
In the southern Hemisphere, the largest is Parachute music festival in New Zealand. Every year it headlines Christian rock bands. Many events are held in Australia called, Easterfest (in Toowoomba) Encounterfest, Jam United, Black Stump and Big Exo Day. Bogotá, Colombia hosts the summer festival Gospel al Parque.
In popular culture
Christian rock has been a subject of parody in popular culture, particularly in television sitcom series. For example in the South Park episode "Christian Rock Hard", Eric Cartman forms a Christian rock band simply to make financial profit off this kind of music by taking secular lyrics and replacing certain words with "Jesus", saying "It's the easiest crappiest music in the world, right? If we just play songs about how much we love Jesus, all the Christians will buy our crap!" In the King of the Hill episode "Reborn to Be Wild", Bobby Hill gets into Christian rock when he goes to a church group that consists of punks who worship God through skateboarding and rock. Hank Hill approves of Bobby's newfound interest in religion, but disapproves of the way the group treats Christianity as a fad, commenting to someone at a Christian rock festival that "You people are not making Christianity any better, you're just making rock 'n' roll worse." In the Seinfeld episode 172, The Burning, when Elaine Benes has found out that her on-and-off boyfriend David Puddy's car radio's memory is filled with Christian rock stations, George Costanza comments "I like Christian rock. It's very positive. It's not like those real musicians who think they're so cool and hip." In the The Simpsons episode "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily", Ned Flanders's date named Rachel Jordon fronts a Christian rock band called "Kovenant."
A documentary film about Christian rock titled Bleed into One has been filmed and it planned for release in 2010. Another documentary about Christian rock titled, Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music? was released on DVD in 2006. The title is a reference to a quote by William Booth and the song of the same name by Larry Norman.
Certain critics argue that Christian rock music and its subjects seldom appeal to non-believers: Allmusic wrote that "unless a Christian rocker plans to perform for Christian audiences exclusively, he or she needs to provide music that secular audiences will find relevant -- music that listeners can relate to on some level even if they aren't practicing Christians."
Acceptance amongst Christian denominations
Christian rock has been called an oxymoron, mainly because rock music is often associated with themes that are antithetical to the teachings of Christianity, a reason why "many fundamentalist religious groups and denominations decry rock music in general." Such groups "may consider established contemporary Christian artists such as Amy Grant, Petra, Steve Green and Twila Paris as reprehensible as secular bands like White Zombie and Marilyn Manson". According to Richard D. Barnet, Christian rock bands "too have come under criticism for supposedly promoting satanism.".
Barnet states that Christian rock acts are controversial because they do not meet the Fundamental Evangelistic Association's criteria for a truly "Christian" song: must be doctrinally correct (according to FEA's interpretation of the Bible), it should not contain syncopation ("Does it stir the flesh to 'boogie,' or the spirit to praise the Lord?"), and it must be politically correct ("The character of much what is called "Christian" music may best be characterized as charismatic... universalist, socialist, utopian, idealistic."). Organizations such as Dial-the-Truth Ministries believe Christian rock bands fail to adhere to the prohibitions of II Corinthians 6:14, which instructs Christians against uniting the righteous with the unrighteous.
Despite such criticism, Barnet concludes: "It should be noted that Christian rock also has millions of supporters, even among the ministry." Frank Breeden, president of the Gospel Music Association, the organization that sponsors the Dove Awards, the Christian music equivalent of the Grammys, states that "There really is no such things as a Christian B-flat. Music in itself is an amoral vehicle."
- List of Christian rock bands
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- ^ Don Cusic, The Sound of Light: A History of Gospel Music (Popular Press, 1990):127. See also John J. Thompson, Raised by Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock & Roll (ECW Press, 2000):49.
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- ^ Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. p. 879. ISBN 1-56563-679-1.
- ^ While it is claimed that Norman borrowed $3,000 from Pat Boone to start One Way Records (see Randy Stonehill in Chris Willman, "RANDY STONEHILL: TURNING TWENTY", CCM (August 1990), http://www.nifty-music.com/stonehill/ccm0890.html), Norman denied this explicitly. (See Larry Norman, linear notes, Bootleg (2005 CDR Release-"Red Letter Edition"):2.
- ^ Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. p. 880. ISBN 1-56563-679-1.
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- ^ Newsweek. A Russian Woodstock.
Once an anti-establishment rebel, Kinchev's most recent work includes Orthodox Christian rock and Russian patriotic songs.
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- ^ McLean, Terri (1998). New Harmonies. n.p.: Alban Institute. p. 110. ISBN 1-56699-206-0.
- ^ Howard, Jay; John M. Streck (1999). Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. pp. qtd. 27. ISBN 0-8131-2105-1.
- ^ Howard, Jay; John M. Streck (1999). Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. p. 27. ISBN 0-8131-2105-1.
- ^ Howard, Jay; John M. Streck (1999). Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 27, 28. ISBN 0-8131-2105-1.
- ^ Hansen, Collin (2006-11-27). "Audience of One". http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/2006/switchfoot-1106.html. Retrieved 2006-12-27.
- ^ Morse, Steve (2004-01-09). "Switchfoot steps toward stardom". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on January 23, 2005. http://web.archive.org/web/20050123135046/http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2004/01/09/switchfoot_steps_toward_stardom?mode=PF. Retrieved 2006-08-09.
- ^ Moring, Mark (2004-08-09). "Stapp: I Am a Christian". ChristianityToday.com. http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/2004/scottstapp-0804.html. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- ^ Lauren says: (2009-11-11). "Europe… again! | Breezy's Blog". Blog.breezybaldwin.com. http://blog.breezybaldwin.com/2009/11/europe-again/. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- ^ "Rebecca St. James Heads to Europe This Week for Lightning Round of Major Concerts". jesusfreakhideout.com. August 19, 2009. http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/news/2009/08/19.REBECCA%20ST.%20JAMES%20HEADS%20TO%20EUROPE%20THIS%20WEEK%20FOR%20LIGHTNING%20ROUND%20OF%20MAJOR%20CONCERTS.asp. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
- ^ "Artist Updates". Christian Activities. http://www.christianactivities.com/artistupdates/story.asp?ID=6918. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- ^ "Bleed Into One Might Get Done In 2010". Atu2.com. 2010-06-15. http://www.atu2.com/news/ibleed-into-onei-might-get-done-in-2010.html. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- ^ "Bleed Into One". Bleed Into One. http://www.bleedintoone.com/. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- ^ Beaujon, Andrew. "Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music?: Heather Whinna, Vickie Hunter: Movies & TV". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Should-Devil-Have-Good-Music/dp/B000BTITH6. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- ^ Henderson, Alex. "mewithoutYou - Catch for Us the Foxes". Allmusic. All Media Guide. http://www.allmusic.com/album/catch-for-us-the-foxes-r711181. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
- ^ a b c d Barnet, Richard D. (2001). Controversies of the music industry (1st ed.). pp. 92–94. http://books.google.com/books?id=PKG5er5AnBkC&pg=PA94&dq=christian+metal+history+controversies#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Retrieved 2006-02-17.
- . Young, Shawn David. Hippies, Jesus Freaks, and Music (Ann Arbor: Xanedu/Copley Original Works, 2005). ISBN 1-59399-201-7
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