By: Bob Gersztyn
June 27, 2007
It’s time that I got back onto the main subject of this blog, my book, “Jesus Rocks the World.” As you can well imagine there was a lot of research involved in writing the book. A very important part of that research was interviews with primary sources, while they still were alive. After all the Jesus movement and its creation of Christian rock & roll for white middle class churches helped spawn not only the contemporary Christian music industry but also the entire mega church industry that now exists. Jesus movement pioneers like Tommy Coomes and Debbie and Ernie Rettino are ministers of music today for the Billy & Franklin Graham organization and Saddleback church, respectively. These same pioneers began their Christian music careers at Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, back in 1969/70. That church was the epi-center of the Southern California Jesus movement that spread across the country and around the world to Europe and parts of Africa and the Orient.
Over the years there have been arguments about who the father of Jesus music is and many people say that it was Larry Norman, while others will name Mylon LeFevre, but the truth of the matter is that there were many fathers and mothers, all of which continued to nurture the new art form until it matured and led the Protestant church into the 21st century. One of the most important groups to come out of the movement was “Love Song,” that was made up of Chuck Girard, Tommy Coomes, Jay Truax, Bob Wall and John Mehler. I already wrote about them in May, but now I want to publish the interviews that I did with Chuck Girard and Tommy Coomes, as my first hand primary sources.
My interview with Chuck Girard will be first. I’ve known the members of “Love Song” since 1972 when I they first came to the church that I was involved with in Los Angeles, California. I talked to Chuch more than the other members, because I booked him to perform at the church as a solo artist after the group broke up in 1974. He convinced me to book Keith Green for a concert, before anyone even heard of him. I interviewed him for the Wittenburg Door on June 27, 2007, and it never got published because the magazine stopped publishing before the interview entered rotation, so I used it for my book when I began it in 2008. This is the complete interview. Chuck was already a pop star who had 3 top 40 radio hits since 1960, before he became a born again Christian, so his perspective went deeper than anybody else’s except maybe Barry McGuire, who I also interviewed and will latter publish. Then in 2010 Love Song reformed and toured the West Coast, so I photographed them in Vancouver, Washington. Then a few months later I booked Chuck to play at the Agape Inn reunion in Los Angeles, California, where it all began. So without further delay, I present to you the “Chuck Girard Interview.”
Bob Gersztyn: How did the Jesus Movement come out of the 1960’s counter culture, and how does it continue to affect the world today?
Girard: From my experience, which is all I can speak from, we started to hear the first rumblings of it around late 1960’s. We were a bunch of hippies who were seeking God through eastern philosophies, and all the different spiritual systems that were out there, the Urantia Book, Aquarian Gospel, and reading the Bible at the same time. By the time we started to hear about Calvary Chapel, which was my first connection to the Jesus Movement, we had pretty much narrowed our search down to the idea that somehow Jesus had to be included. So we were at that point, the description I would make of where we were at is that we were “mostly Christians” as we would say. We were kind of already moving in that direction, and we started to pick up hitchhikers along Pacific Coast Highway, and they started talking about this church called Calvary Chapel where they found God, and God was moving there. So we decided that we needed to check it out even though we personally weren’t all that interested in the Christian thing but we felt like hey, you know if hippies are telling us God is moving somewhere we should at least find out what’s going on. So we went up to visit Calvary Chapel, and really found it quite different, I did at least, from my earlier experience with Christianity. It was very alive and vital, and I could tell that there was a real presence of God in the place. I didn’t know the terminology, what to label everything, but I knew that something powerful was happening, and I needed to look into it. Now historically that still wasn’t really the Jesus Movement. It was “bubbling under”, but hadn’t really exploded, and wasn’t officially named yet. This was the late ‘60’s, early ‘70’s; I got born again in February of 1970. But I think that Calvary Chapel really became the media focal point for what eventually became publicized throughout the world as the Jesus Movement because Calvary Chapel had a very photogenic look. It was kind of this un-churchy looking Spanish style California building where hippies, straight people, and business people would come together to worship, and was quite picturesque in itself. So the media glommed onto the idea that they could get it all down at Calvary Chapel, hippies, straight people, the cool look, and the current music, the music that Love Song and other groups were playing down there, so that was kind of the beginning of what the media began to call the Jesus Movement. I guess you would describe the Jesus Movement as the mass salvation of hippies, and from what I understand the actual movement, or counter culture movement, started a little earlier than that. There were already pockets of it happening up in Northern California with Ted Wise and some of the people that were starting Christian communes up there but it wasn’t yet a media event, just more like the underpinnings of what was ultimately to become this movement that had national focus. When we got on board and we started to play at Calvary Chapel it was really kind of the hinge, the crux between the bubbling under into the public expression of what the media was going to call the Jesus Movement, and Jesus people and Jesus music. It was quite impacting for its day. We were a band, and we got saved there at Calvary Chapel, and we had these songs that we had written about our quest for God. We started to play at this little Monday night bible study where there was this hippie preacher named Lonnie, he gave the message and we played the music. The place was running about two hundred a night, and within four months there were over two thousand coming into this little six hundred seat church. The only way we could handle the overflow was to put folding chairs out on the patio, and we had glass walls so the people could see in and listen on speakers outside, and it was quite a “vibe”. Then we moved into a circus tent for a number of years while the bigger sanctuary was being built, and the tent to me was kind of the hot point for the media. From there it began to be publicized throughout the nation and ultimately the world, and became known as the Jesus Movement and this very impacting revival. I would define revival as the mass salvation of lots of different people at one time and that certainly would describe what happened from 1970 to 1975. Then ultimately it branched out in different degrees of impact throughout the world, and really was kind of on the books for about seven years I think, 1970-1977 is when I’d say the main influence of that whole movement was. Really the only way I can reflect on the impact today is by the fact that wherever I go four years later I can personally get a crowd out anywhere of at least thirty-five to fifty people anywhere in the world that will come, that would know my music, andwere part of what was going on back then. So in my opinion it had a lot of staying power because forty years later you have a lot of people who are still walking with the Lord that got converted during that period of time. As far as it being influential today in any active way I don’t think it is but the ongoing influence of the salvations of many people that happened in the early ‘70’s that are still walking with God, that have formed churches, that have become the evangelists and the preachers of today it is still very much in evidence.
Gersztyn: You talk about “we”, who were the other people that were included with you that were unsaved, and got saved?
Girard: I was involved in a little communal group of about eight hippie guys that just through osmosis got thrown together because we were of like mind. It started out in night clubs, talking to people, and sharing our thoughts on spirituality and all of that, and some people would get into what we were talking about and ultimately we wound up with a nucleus group of about eight people.(X) The founding members of Love Song were involved in that group, and then there were a couple of other people who didn’t wind up in Love Song but started other bands. Chuck Butler who started Parable was part of that little group, and a couple of three bands came out of our little group of seekers (X). When I say “we” that is who the “we” was.
Gersztyn: What was it like for you before that? Talk a little bit about from the time you graduated from high school up to that point.
Girard: I was pretty much a straight-laced guy, I was into the music thing. I wasn’t really much of a student but I wasn’t really into religious activity or spiritual curiosity in those days. (X) I got bit with the music bug about my junior high school years, and by my senior year in high school I had put together a little vocal group. I’m old enough to where I go back to the doo-wop days in 1961.
Gersztyn: What is your birth date by the way?
Girard: August 27th 1943, so I’m going to be sixty-four. I’m a year younger than Paul McCartney and about the same age as Mick Jagger, by a few months. I was kind of coming out of this more straight-laced type of background, and although I was an alcoholic, I wasn’t really into the drug thing. I was sort of curious when the first coverage of the drug scene started to come out in the mainstream press, mainly focusing on the San Francisco hippies that were up in Haight-Ashbury. I was really curious about what was causing them to grow their hair long and kind of get into this back to (X) nature thing. I remember specifically one photograph of a hippie looking into a light bulb like he was seeing the whole universe, and I did become kind of curious as to where they were at in their heads. So I was (X) open minded to finding out what trip they were on, but I really wasn’t drawn that much into drugs. I was happy with alcohol, and I was into my music thing. Like I say in 1961 I was a senior in high school. I had a hit record that went on to be a top twenty record on the Billboard charts so I had this sense of (X) achievement, and the drug world wasn’t of interest to me at that time.
Gersztyn: What was that record?
Girard: My group was called the Castells and we had two hits in 1961 and I think 1962 or 1963, one song was called Sacred, and another song was titled So This Is Love. (X) Just to complete that history, later on I got involved in hot rod surf recording, and started working with a guy named Gary Usher who had co-written the song In My Room with the Beach Boys, and had worked with Brian Wilson, and was actually a friend of Brian Wilson’s. He was doing that same kind of hot rod surf music thing, and I got involved in being one of his studio crew members. There was another hit around 1964 with one of the groups I was involved in called Little Honda by the Hondells, and that is more known than the Castells stuff, most people know the song. Most people that go back that far know the song that goes “first gear it’s alright” you know.
Gersztyn: I remember that, I’m sixty myself.
Girard: I was the lead singer on that song so that was kind of my little brush with fame, and gave me a taste of music business success, and that kind of stays with you even if you can’t maintain it for very long. So I was always on this musical quest to continue to be successful in music, and I wasn’t really that interested in the drug scene that much but like I say I glommed onto alcohol in the meantime, and I’m sure by any standards was an alcoholic at a very young age. As I say I got interested in what was going on with this whole hippie scene, and eventually through my being in music it became easier to get drugs, and eventually I stumbled on to my first experience with marijuana, and I really liked that. It wasn’t until about a year after that, I think I smoked marijuana one time, and then I didn’t take any other drugs like that for a whole year. Eventually I did get hold of some LSD, and that was really kind of what changed my life. That was the drug that for me was a real connection into the spiritual side of the world, and at the time not being a Christian I didn’t realize that it was a counterfeit experience, and that it came from darkness. The Bible says that the enemy will come; Satan will come as an angel of light, a minister of righteousness, so some things that are not of God look very enticing and very positive not everything that’s demonic is scary and evil looking. Sometimes it looks very enticing, and very much like a true answer. So that’s what I thought, I thought drugs were part of how God connected with man, and the whole hippie scene was a spiritual quest. It wasn’t until I got into it that I realized that very few hippies were really seeking God like I was; they were more onto the tripping out side of things, and just having fun. I did manage to connect with this group of seven or eight people who were on more of a serious spiritual quest, and we’re the ones that became the little communal group of seekers. So that is kind of my transition into all of that. As I got more into the drug scene my whole physical appearance changed. I started to grow my hair long, and grow a beard, and I began to understand why the hippies looked like they did as I became one.
Gersztyn: So at that point how many times would you say that you had used LSD or any other mind expanding substances?
Girard: I was a pretty serious drug taker for about four years. from about 1965 is when I started to really kind of get into it until about ‘69, ‘66 to ’69, somewhere in there. You don’t count every trip, but kind of doing the math, I probably took over five hundred LSD trips. Now, you have to realize that John Lennon claims to have taken over a thousand so I was kind of an amateur by some standards, but for me that was a lot. That was about every other day for a few years at least, every other two or three days getting high on some kind of drug, and that was my lifestyle for probably seriously three or four years. Then toward the end of that period which was late ‘60 when God started to lower the boom on all of us, and started to pull us into the net I started to realize that this was really kind of a dead end. I wanted to have a spiritual high without taking a drug, or having some synthetic substance in my body. I thought, you know if this is really something from God than I ought to be able to maintain this level of connection without having to take something. So that was my next step, how can I be on a trip with God without taking drugs? That was probably late ‘69 when I first started to think about the idea of putting the drug thing aside, and trying to achieve some sort of spiritual connection without drugs. Also, by that time (X) several of us in our little commune of seekers had been arrested, and some of us were awaiting trial. The glow was fading very quickly on the whole drug experience. I was living in Salt Lake City for a little while, and I had a very negative experience with LSD up there. It was what we call a real bum trip, and that was the last time I took acid because it was so frightening to me. What happened to me was basically a sense of disconnection and loneliness that was just unbelievable. It was an overwhelming sense of, almost like God wasn’t even in the universe, and I was floating around all alone, and in complete utter darkness and loneliness, and it was just so frightening that when I came back off that trip I thought I’m not taking this anymore. I could never go through that again; I don’t ever want to experience anything like that again. Then I was about another year on smoking weed, and hashish, and the like, and then ultimately we got born again, and delivered from all of that.
Gersztyn: That is interesting that it happened in Salt Lake City too.
Girard: Well yeah, you talk about going from the frying pan into the fire. The first place we moved was Hawaii because we thought that Hawaii was going to where the New Jerusalem was going to come down to the Earth because it was so pristine, we thought. So we went over to Hawaii, that’s a long story in itself, and lived off the land, and tried to be hippies over there. Then how we wound up in Salt Lake City, my friend Jay Truax who later on became the bass player for Love Song had this connection with a couple of musicians who had moved to Salt Lake City. He had moved there and become a member of what really became the biggest local band for a number of years in Salt Lake City, (X) a power trio called Spirit of Creation. He came over to the islands to invite me to join that band so I went to Salt Lake City for a year, and lived there. (X) The band thing never gelled so I never joined the band, but I lived in Salt Lake City for a year. So that was the beginning of the end of drugs for me that last year in Salt Lake City, and then we moved back to Laguna Beach for about the year before I got saved. So our quest went from Hawaii to Salt Lake City to Laguna Beach, and then we got saved.
Gersztyn: What involvement would you say that the hippie counter culture, and drugs, and all of that had on the entire Jesus Movement, if there where no hippie culture and drugs would there had been a Jesus Movement as we know it?
Girard: I think not. I actually have a theory on that. The hippie thing was largely about the connection to the art of the day. The music of the Beatles, the psychedelic art, the whole counter-culture reflected how much everybody in the counter-culture was on the same trip. Now as I understand it, there are more people alive today than have ever been born through the whole history of time statistically. The theory I have is that, first of all, at that time, the late 60’s , the world had never seen a time when so many people were on the same wave length or trip in the history of the world. So you had this huge massive counter culture group going through the same changes, if you will, at the same time through the leadership of the Beatles, and other groups that were telling us about their experience, and kind of leading way, and connecting with us, and reinforcing what we were experiencing. We were going hey look the Beatles are on the same trip we are. or this guy Bob Dylan or whoever. So right around the same time everybody became disillusioned kind of like we did. “Okay we’ve gone to the end of this thing and even John Lennon is saying the dream is over, where do we go from here? If even the Beatles who we’ve been following are at the end of their place of bringing us anywhere, where do we go from here? So I don’t know of any other time that I can think of in history where you’ve had so many people at the same plateau: “we’ve done all of this, we’re done, this can’t take us any further anymore.” So there were only two choices as I see it, you’d go back into the world, and back into money and become a yuppie, or over into Christianity. There was a small group of people kind of stayed in that time warp, and for years after I’d become a Christian I met people who had locked into the hippie lifestyle and just stayed there, but they were a vast minority.
Gersztyn: They were called “Dead Heads.”
Girard: Well a lot of them were, yes. I was really disillusioned because I saw a lot of hippies with supposedly lived by the ideals of peace and love, who had proclaimed “down with the establishment, don’t trust anyone over thirty” then became the businessmen of the ‘70’s, and then the ‘80’s. For most of the rest of us, it was a natural thing to just flow into a relationship with Jesus. That was the only place that was really a step above where we were at in this disillusioned state of uncertainty. That is why I think such great numbers of people became Christians at that time because we were all at that place at the same time. We’d had it, we’d gone as far as we could with the drugs, what the counter culture was preaching, Timothy Leary, and all of that. so what was the next step? For many, many, many people it was Christianity.
Gersztyn: During the 1960’s did you have any political thoughts about what was going on, everything from Civil Rights to the Vietnam War?
Girard: Speaking for myself I was completely divorced from all of that. Our perspective was that we were on a spiritual plane, and I wasn’t personally really watching the political scene. Many were, some people became more politically oriented, and became activists, and all of that, but my group of friends we were more on our own trip if you will. Actually the drug thing is quite a selfish thing. It is really more about what is happening to me than what is happening in the world, or what can we do to help others. It’s more about where am I at. Again I can’t speak for everybody, but for me that is kind of where I was at, and I was not very politically aware during those years.
Gersztyn: So you didn’t have any problems with the draft or anything like that?
Girard: When I was of draft age Kennedy was president, and he was letting married men out of the draft, and so I actually got married, and I think part of the reason was so that I could get out of the draft. I did that probably about the time that my lottery number, or whatever they were doing at the time would come up. (X). I was married for about a year and a half, and I kind of dodged the bullet that way because after that I wasn’t of prime draft age any longer, and I managed to dodge the draft legally, so I didn’t ever get called.
Gersztyn: So you didn’t really have any thoughts about the Vietnam War even afterwards?
Girard: Again I wasn’t, it is remarkable how
Gersztyn: Well because it lasted up until 1973 so even as a Christian you didn’t really get involved, or even consider it one way or the other?
Girard: I understood it more after I became a Christian and I got more connected to what was really happening in the world but by that time in 1970 it was pretty much over wasn’t it? I think all of the POW’s came home around 1972 so I was more aware of it but I wasn’t really connected. It wasn’t a conscience thing; it wasn’t like I had an opinion. I was really kind of apolitical Not disinterested but just politically stupid. I just really didn’t understand the impact of all that was going on with Vietnam and all of that like I would today. I much more understand what’s going on with Iraq and all of that than I would have understood world affairs of that type in those days, because again I was kind of in my own cocoon sorting my own life out, and for some reason that wasn’t a part of my interest I guess.
Gersztyn: Well what do you think about the current political situation, the war and all of that?
Girard: I’m no political pundit, I can only view it from my own perspective, and I’ve always supported the war. My perspective is that I feel like with 9/11 we were attacked, and some people would say well it wasn’t directly Afghanistan, it wasn’t directly Iraq, it wasn’t directly Saddam, you know it was terrorists, but I think the war was Bush’s attempt to at least try to say, you can’t do that to us or you will pay the consequences. I don’t really know enough about, it’s such a unique situation the fact that we’ve never had a war with a non-entity like terrorists, but they did come from somewhere, and they are funded from somewhere. My other philosophy is that what we don’t know about what is going on in government would probably fill volumes so I can’t really make informed decisions about what the president or the government does. All I an do is say that I’m not for our young people dying in a war, and if it was my own kids over there and one of them was killed I might have a different perspective, and might take it a little more seriously from the standpoint of the consequences to me but for the most part I feel like we did the right thing going in. Now whether we are doing the right thing staying or not is up for debate, but I think that it was the right thing to do at the time. There were good things that have come out of it. What with Saddam, and the Al-Qaeda guy that did all the beheadings was taken out, so good things have happened from it. But I’m not politically aware enough to really, I’m not trying to dodge it, I’m just telling you that I don’t consider myself to be some great political voice. ,I actually feel that most musicians, and I’m probably no exception are pretty politically ignorant. When I hear musicians speaking out for causes I say “go play music, . what do you know about it?” Musicians and actors are so myopic, yet their opinions hold great sway. The media holds great power in swaying public opinion. It’s the blind leading the blind.
Gersztyn: That’s true except for like Country Joe and The Fish, or somebody like that there really weren’t a whole lot of political bands.
Girard: Dylan claims he wasn’t political, but he was making political statements. The honest truth is that from my own perspective today I just don’t think that we have a clue really what is going on in the world. I know how it is in other areas of endeavor, like I know how the music business is, and I know how people perceive the music business, and where real music is coming from. It’s not coming from the people who win the Grammies, and all of that. So trying to define the times is like trying to explain the book of Revelations there are so many better men that are smarter than I that have studied the book of Revelations and can’t agree on the doctrine of the book of Revelations so who am I to come out and say this is what it means. Same with the world.
Gersztyn: Since you bring up music, and where it is coming from why don’t you talk a little about that.
Girard: Christian music specifically or music in general?
Gersztyn: You can do both
Girard: I think that there are two levels of what is happening in music. Lets take secular music for a minute because then we can append a perspective on Christian music based on secular music which is more influential to the world. Influential only in the sense more of entertainment because I don’t think we really have that much political, we don’t have folk rock, we don’t have protest songs anymore, there’s not that much political statement out there like there was back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I think musically lets just talk about it from a creative standpoint. The Bible says that in the end times there will be an increase in knowledge, and I’ve noticed in the last five years being a music fan and kind of staying current with bands that are out there, I think that there is a lot of excellent music out there. Five years ago I had to really search to find something good, the occasional Coldplay or Radiohead CD would come out that would be musically great, and I would go wow that is really good, that is worth listening to. But recently, largely because of the internet, there is a shift of paradigm from the control of the commercial music business which is losing its grip now in a favorable way in my opinion. I’m glad to see that. Today there’s a new wave of music coming from kids that are just sitting in their garage with their ten thousand dollars worth of equipment with nobody breathing down their neck about what music they can make, or what’s commercial, or what’s not. There’s some really interesting music out there today for the first time in a long time, and lots of it. I go on iTunes sometimes, and they have a feature that suggests “if you like this you might like this”. You can surf from group to group, and I go “where are these guys coming from, nobody has heard of these guys, this is great music”, and then I’ll go to the next one, and I’ll say “well this is great too”, and five years ago that wasn’t the case. No one is telling these kids what to record or what’s politically correct lyrically. It is just coming from their experience, and their gut and we’re in a really good place just from that creative standpoint in music right now. Now the problem with the Christian part of it that I’ve always seen is that we’ve never been the leaders, we’ve been the followers. So more often than any other kind of statement you hear about a Christian group is the comparison of that group to a secular group like “he’s the Christian Sting”, or “this band is the Christian equivalent of whoever”. What I don’t think Christian music has really realized yet, except for possibly some of the worship music that is coming out, is that the only thing that separates us from the world now is the anointing and power of God Maybe we’ve even gotten to the point where we are as good as worldly bands, so we may be on an even par that way, but the only thing we’ve got they don’t have access to is the anointing of God. If we don’t explore that side of music, and get God involved in energizing and giving power to our music then we are just equal to the world, and I don’t think that’s the goal of any Christian artist unless he just wants to win a Grammy or something and he doesn’t consider himself to be a minister, which I think many Christian bands don’t claim. In fact I see a lot of the bands that start out more Christian, like Lifehouse, that started with Malibu Vineyard, and other groups that came out, Sixpence None The Richer, now that girl who was their lead singer, Leigh Nash has an album out, so the CDs don’t have much if any Christian content. Maybe they are satisfied to just be equal with world. But if we ever want to put out something that’s better than what the world puts out the only thing we have that they don’t have access to is Gods anointing, and until we get that into our thinking then the very best we can do is to be either a copy of the world, or at least maybe at the very best equal with it. That’s the sad part that I see about Christian music right now. Because if I’m going to listen to Christian music that doesn’t inspire me or make me think a little deeper about my walk with God, and I’m just going to have to listen to it to be music I will probably pick worldly music because I’d enjoy it more. If Christian music doesn’t offer me anything more than worldly music does I’ll probably gravitate to listening to worldly music.
Gersztyn: You know a funny thing last night I was just turning stations on my radio, and I listened to the Christian radio station, and I thought, wait a minute I thought this was a Christian radio station what are they playing this secular song on there for? You know the group Los Lonely Boys, well I’m listening, and I’m going well this is Los Lonely Boys, and then I’m listening and I go well wait a minute those are Christian lyrics, and I realize they were duplicating the Los Lonely Boys the exact song, and singing the Christian lyrics. For a moment there I was enjoying it more than Los Lonely Boys because I’d already heard that song a thousand times, and now it had new lyrics but it was a complete rip off, and I go man they are still doing the same thing.
Girard: It’s pathetic, we should be, well I kind of already said all of that. There is a little bit of worship music out there that really does bring forth some good music, and sometimes I’ll be listening to a Christian radio station and they will play a little block of some worship songs that are out there. Even some of the remakes of some of the standard ones, and it’s really good musically, and it has an anointing because it is a worship song so that’s probably the best we have right now.
Gersztyn: That is one thing I do enjoy is the worship music, and another thing it’s kind of like you have so many of these Christian groups that are on secular radio stations you don’t even realize, or I didn’t, like the group The Fray. I didn’t even realize that they are a Christian group, and I’m reading somewhere that they were, and I thought well gee that song they have To Save a Life obviously that has a positive theme to it, and every so often you will find these Christian groups that are on secular radio, and nobody even says that they’re Christians.
Girard: I think there are about five of them the last time I looked at them, there is some group Anberlin or something that are supposed to be Christians, and I did know about The Fray. Every now and then I’ll be reading along, I follow the charts a little bit, and something about a group’s Christianity will come out, and I think “I guess that’s supposed to be coming out of a Christian perspective” but again it is not specifically identified. So there’s a lot of that. But You don’t listen to The Fray’s song and go “they are talking about Christian ideals”; maybe you pick up on it later. Maybe that’s good; maybe that is not a bad thing, I don’t know. If they are really speaking for Christ in other ways, in interviews, and things then that can be a good thing.
Gersztyn: So do you consider a Christian musician, consider his being a musician a calling just like a pastor?
Girard: I do the simple answer is I do. The big thing now is bands are saying “we’re not a Christian group; we are a group of Christians”. But if Christianity is a vital part of your life, and that’s part of what you’re expressing however subtle, that’s a ministry, and there is a responsibility that goes along with it. I don’t know that you can just get out there and say “I’m making music, and I happen to be Christian”. Maybe there is a place for that, I mean we had the same discussion about Amy Grant when she first kind of came out with her more secular stuff, and there was a big debate about can you just put out positive pop that doesn’t really particularly stimulate anybody’s curiosity about God but isn’t really saying anything negative. I mean this discussion can go on and on for you know, five years.
Gersztyn: Like U2 as an example
Girard: Yeah, well I look at U2 like a group of Catholics, whether they are really born again or not, everybody that comes out of Ireland has some sort of either Protestant or Catholic background so that’s the Christian part to me. I don’t know if I’d really call or every would have called U2 a born again band, that is kind of how I judge whether a band is representing Christ or not but a lot of people glommed onto U2 because there was some kind of social conscience at least to their music, and in the early days “Sunday Bloody Sunday” had some political statement and all that. By their fruits you will know them..do you see Godliness coming out in their walk, do you see a testimony in interviews.. I mean Bono is trying to do some good things but lots of people do good things; Jerry Lewis did good things in the fight against Muscular Dystrophy but I wouldn’t call him a Christian. It’s hard to dissect all of that, and at the end of the day I can’t judge anybody else so all I can do is have my opinion but if you’re walking with God, and your not really blatant in your music maybe you can just be a musician that is a Christian, and it’s alright with God. I don’t know that I can be the arbiter of that but I do have my own opinion. I think if you are representing Christ in any way, in an interview or in any kind of a way where you say I go to church on Sunday that’s part of my life that there’s a bit of a responsibility that goes along with the fact that you have a platform. Here’s the other thing, remember the old comparison about a Christian plumber. Does he have to go in and talk about Christ as he fixes your toilet? Well plumbing is not an occupation that expresses ideas and thoughts, music is, and so I never bought that excuse where people would say “I’m a Christian musician I don’t have to talk about God in my lyrics anymore than a Christian plumber has to talk about God while he fixes your toilet.” The big difference is that all music espouses some sort of idea about a lifestyle. Rap has its philosophy and what it is saying, and there is some kind of neutral music where you might say you’ve got some music, Who Let the Dogs Out or something that might not actually influence anybody to think a certain way but in general art is a means by which we convey philosophy, and we convey thoughts, and we reflect life. So you can’t just compare a Christian musician to a Christian plumber in my opinion, so the fact that you have this platform to express a philosophy or a thought about life, if you are a Christian then I think there is a responsibility that goes along with that. Whether you wear the hat and say I’m a minister or not may not be that serious but at least you have responsibility to communicate something about your positive experience with Christ though your music, and through your art, and I think God would call you to account about it I think if you have that platform.
Gersztyn: So do you think then that music could be used for importing ideas like take for example Cat Stevens who dropped his whole music thing, and became a Muslim, and now he is starting to get kind of back into music to try to bring some positive impact into Islam. Do you think that somehow Christians can somehow import ideas, the cross, especially with the internet nowadays, and everybody has access to it, and maybe music a certain beat, or whatever is taboo in Islam but some guy in the middle of Saudi Arabia can connect on the internet, and listen to whatever they want. So if somebody could somehow communicate Christian ideas through some sort of an Islamic piece do you think maybe we could eventually integrate our ideas from one culture to another?
Girard: Well I think you could, again I think that’s a calling. It’s a version of saying can I do punk rock, and still represent Christ to this very specific audience that would not be my grandmother, or would not be my Aunt Minnie. That’s kind of like an evangelistic calling, it is the musical version of saying can I go into a bar, and sit down and have a coke, and wait until I strike up a conversation about Christ, and maybe lead them to the Lord. Some people would say no you shouldn’t even be in a bar. Other people would say yes, Jesus sat with the winebibbers, and he preached to the ungodly so why can’t we? In a way I guess if you had that calling on your life, if you had some sort of a connection to the Middle Eastern musical format that you are a Christen now, or you were converted out of Islam or something then yes I think you could have an impact. I think a lot of it has to do to with the whole package, it’s not so much just about the music. You know my daughter was in Zoë Girl right? Well she is solo now, and she hasn’t put her first album out yet but the songs that she is doing now are very subtle compared to what she did in Zoë Girl. Her current philosophy is “I want to write about life, and I want to write about the things that kind of connect to a Christian perspective but I’m not going to be smack you in the face with it”. But you go to her web site, and it’s the whole picture. It’s not so much whether I have Jesus’ name in every song but if you go to my web site you should know somehow in there that I’m a Christian. I have another daughter that is doing music now, and she’s got a My Space, and she has a very upfront approach. So maybe one daughter will do a more subtle thing, and the other one will be a little bolder about it but at the end of the day, it is kind of how I would describe making an album back in my day. I didn’t think that every song had to have a specific in your face Christian theme, but if you listened to the whole album by the end of any album I ever put out you should know two things, that I’m a Christian, and that God had changed my life. Now you might pull some song like I Will Love you Forever, or something, but the whole work will reflect Christ.
Gersztyn: Plain old Joe
Girard: Plain old Joe that’s a good example because it is not particularly a gospel song. It’s about this loser who winds up committing suicide but if every song was about that then the album just be about committing suicide, but at the end it is followed with Harvest Time which says we need to reap the harvest, and get on the stick, and not let there be plain old Joes. So the album takes you though a transition, and at the end of the album if you don’t know I’m a Christian, and that God’s changed my life then you’re not really listening to everything on the album. You can pull one song out of context, and maybe you say “Girard that’s not a Christian song”, but it is the whole body of the work that to me is the measure of what people are doing. Now it is even more than just the album, it is the website, the My Space, what you can communicate through so many different areas now that we have the internet, and all of that. As long as it comes out at the end of the day that you’re representing Christ, and you’re trying to do what you can to impact peoples lives then sometimes the music could be subtle I guess. Again that is the heart of the musician, and it’s how much of a calling he feels on his life, and I don’t know if you can separate a truly born again experience from your music. It’s got to come out in your music, or it has to come out somewhere, and I think in a way God requires it.
To be continued