Spiritual Rock & Roll Journalism

10 Oct

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U2 is a four man Irish rock band that began in the late 1970s when four teenage friends started to play together after school in Dublin. Lead singer Paul Hewson, nicknamed Bono, lead guitarist and keyboardist, David Evans, nicknamed the Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and bassist Adam Clayton make the quartet. Three of the four were part of an after school Christian Bible study that started as a result of the spiritual revolution that began in the 1960s and blossomed in the 1970s. Elder Irish rocker Van Morrison had already laid the groundwork for spiritually infused rock and roll a decade earlier. Their first two albums were sold in Christian bookstores and they headlined β€œGreenbelt,” Great Britain’s oldest Christian rock festival before they hit superstardom.

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2.Β Β Β Β Β  Elvis Presley was a frustrated gospel singer who failed his audition with Cecil Blackwood’s Southern Gospel quartet, the Songfellows, because he couldn’t sing harmony. So he recorded rock & roll for Sam Phillips at Sun Records as a solo artist. However, he also recordedΒ  gospel albums and even used gospel groups like the Jordanaires and the Imperials on his albums and in his live shows. In 2002 he was inducted into the β€œGospel Music Hall of Fame,” along with Larry Norman and Keith Green.

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3.Β Β Β Β Β  Larry Norman is considered by many to be the father of Jesus rock, since his first solo album, β€œUpon This Rock,” on Capital Records was released in 1969. He was a talented singer, songwriter, and performer, who also started his own record label and discovered and nurtured many early Jesus rockers. He lived here in Salem for the last 20 years of his life, until he went to be with the Lord in 2008.

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4.Β Β Β Β Β  Keith Green was another pioneer Jesus rock star who began his career as a child prodigy who performed since he was five. He and his wife Melody were songwriters with a contract that earned them enough money to live on in the 1970s, until they signed a recording contract with Billy Ray Hearn’s new β€œSparrow” record label. They used all their royalties from songwriting, record sales, and performances to house and feed all the homeless people that they led to Jesus on the streets of Los Angeles. Keith eventually gave his albums out for free since he didn’t believe that God wanted him to charge people to hear the gospel. He tragically died in an airplane crash in 1982.

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5.Β Β Β Β Β  Ellas Bates, better known as Bo Diddley, is a pioneer of rock & roll, but his early musical education came from the church. When he was a child, during the Great Depression, his church Β believed in his musical ability and took up a collection to purchase him a violin, that he studied for 12 years. Later he wanted to be a drummer, but couldn’t coordinate his hands, so instead he played guitar, with a style that simulated a driving drum beat, and ironically invented rock & roll’s primal rhythm, considered by most Christians to be profane.

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6.Β Β Β Β Β  Bob Dylan was considered by many to be the voice of his generation in the 1960s when he wrote and sang songs that reflected the soul of his generation. By the end of the 1970s he turned his back on fame and fortune and abandoned all his groundbreaking music to perform Jesus rock for three albums. Songs like β€œGotta Serve Somebody,” β€œSaved,” and β€œProperty of Jesus” replaced β€œLike a Rolling Stone” and β€œLay Lady Lay,” for a season.

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7.Β Β Β Β Β  Dion Dimucci is a legend that was part of the 2nd wave of American rock & roll in the late 1950sΒ  that included Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper. The latter three tragically died in an airplane crash, but Dimucci was spared and had a stellar career that went from Doo Wop, to blues and rock to folk and finally gospel.

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8.Β Β Β Β Β  Chuck Girard’s musical career began in high school and by the time he graduated he was the lead singer of the Castells, a Doo Wop group from the early 1960s. They had a couple of top 40 radio hits and by 1964 he was working with the Beach Boys and became the lead singer of the Hondells and had another radio hit called β€œLittle Honda.” Musical success allowed him to enjoy life and he became an acid dropping hippie, who moved to Hawaii and lived off the land. After 500 LSD trips he returned to Los Angeles, began playing with other local musicians who were all on the same spiritual quest. Eventually Girard and four others formed β€œLove Song,” one of the most important seminal Jesus freak rock bands to come out of the counter culture.

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All of these stories and hundreds of others are covered in greater detail in my two books. β€œJesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music, volumes 1 & 2” is published by Praeger and available on most major book sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and even ABC-CLIO the parent publisher. However, you can find the best deal on Walmart’s web site. If you buy the book I would be happy to autograph it for you, just contact me by friending me on facebook. I also have a blog that you can connect to through facebook. If you want more information just google Bob Gersztyn and you will find me.

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