The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Five
- The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part One
- The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Two
- The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Three
- The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Four
- The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Five
Part Five: Where Do We Go From Here?
by Phill Lytle
The mid/late 2000s through present
What has been the point of this series? Why have we spent the past month writing over 4,000 words and creating playlists with hundreds of songs?
It really is that simple. As our scope has been laser-focused on the rock music genre, we realize that this leaves many artists unexplored. Many great artists that risk being forgotten just as much as the bands we have covered. There is a whole other series that needs to be written about those wonderful bands, singers, and performers in Christian music history that didn’t quite fit into what we were doing. Perhaps one day, we will tackle that topic. For now, we appreciate all the comments, questions, and suggestions we have received as we have released each new installment in this series. Our hope is that we, at the bare minimum, started a conversation. For reasons we will never understand, the Christian music world is seemingly the only one that actively forgets its history. That needs to stop. Based on the massive reaction we received from this series, it is clear there are many others who feel the same way.
That leads us to our next steps. Where do we go from here? Instead of writing another 1,000 words about the Christian bands and artists that are currently making what we consider to be the best music, we would rather let their music speak for itself. We would also like to invite you to join us by telling us about your favorite artists that don’t quite fit the CCM mold. We all know the Hillsongs, the Casting Crowns, the Toby Macs of the world. We want to move right outside of that space and show you a world of music created by artists, poets, and visionaries that will challenge and inspire. Artists like Andrew Peterson, John Mark McMillan, Josh Garrels, and many more. These artists carry the banner first picked up by Keith Green, Petra, The 77’s, and The Call. They carry on the legacy of excellence, artistry, and creativity. Let us do our best to not overlook this amazing music simply because it does not get played on the local FM station.
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31 thoughts on “The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Five”
I want this playlist on my account. Is there a way for me to “save” it to listen to without going through this article each time?
Also, I love the last line: “Let us do our best to not overlook this amazing music simply because it does not get played on the local FM station.” There IS good music that is written and performed by Christians, and it’s a shame that so little of it gets radio time.
Yes. Just click on the Spotify icon and then when you’re in just follow it. After that, it should appear on the sidebar of your account.
Check out Chris Renzema
I have just gone through all the playlists from this series and spent entirely too much money on iTunes. And I’m so excited about it!! Thanks again, guys. Loved every bit of this series!!
I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun putting this all together.
I shared this on Facebook a few days ago, but I think it deserves repeating:
We highly recommend that people listen to each playlist – work through all of them from Playlist 1 to Playlist 5. Listen to the diversity in sound and style. No matter how much one might love current CCM radio, I promise that you will never hear this kind of variety on most popular CCM stations.
I like some of Angels & Airwaves songs. I would recommend their song entitled Heaven specifically. A fan made a great accompanying video for it. Good reminder of the beautiful and amazing world we’ve been given and to hold on to that sense of wonder, like a child has I suppose. Here’s the link:
I wasn’t aware the Angels and Airwaves claimed to be Christians. I do like their music though.
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After reading the April 2017 Petra article earlier this week, thanks to a Google search, I was made aware of this series (thank you, Phill!). Wow, there is a lot of music from the 1980s and earlier of which I was not aware. As I used to run the music department at a Christian bookstore (1997-1999), I knew there was a lot of unheard Christian music but pinning it all down has proved difficult. The Internet age has made it easier, of course, and iTunes did see an upsurge in older Christian acts in the last decade being made available.
As a thank you to you guys and your readers, I have created playlists on Google Play Music that mimic (as best as possible) the Spotify playlists that were featured. I will link them in reply to this comment.
Great job tracking down and highlighting music from the past. Perhaps the future is Internet radio where a “DJ” can educate listeners with a flick (double-click) of a button?
As promised in my last comment, here are the playlists as I set them up in Google Play Music. Enjoy!
Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part 1
Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part 2
(Missing from Google Play: The Brave’s “Tears from a Broken Heart,” from the album “Battle Cries”)
Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part 3
(Missing The Throes’ “This Love Is an Ocean,” from the album, “All The Flowers Growing In Your Mother’s Eyes” from 1990.)
Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part 4
Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part 5
Forgotten History of Christian Rock Complete (Parts 1-5)
Thanks Michael! Can’t wait to listen to them.
I have all of my playlists set to Public/Shared, so it’s possible there is music in my library that might be new to you, Phill. Right now, I am *really* enjoying Stryper’s God Damn Evil, which was released on April 20,2018. It is currently my 15 year-old’s favorite album, as well. Thanks again for the terrific blog series and for the five cool Spotify playlists.
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This playlist is fantastic! Big shout out to Mike Lytle for doing most of the hard work in putting all the playlists together.
Great series thanks for sharing! I’d add a few newer artists that deserve a listen like John Van Deusen’s Album I Am origami Pt. 2, Jon Guerra’s album Keeper of Days, Rivers & Robots album Discovery, Chris Renzema’s album Let The Ground Rest, Madison Cunningham’s Who Are You Now, The Gray Havens She Waits album, any album by Kings Kaleidoscope, The Porter’s Gate and Heath McNease.
Thanks for highlighting well deserving artists on the fringe!
Thanks for the comment and the suggestions! We will definitely check those bands/artists out.
I appreciate this article. So many great bands that we have forgotten about. Not just in Christian Rock, but in Christian Music all together. Andre Crouch, the Imperials, you mentioned Keith Green and Larry Norman. But Andre Crouch and the Imperials were just as radical in their time, and are now common names in the church. But there were 2 big names you left out of your list:
How can The Prayer Chain be left off of this list in the 90’s-2000’s? No one defined more the struggle of life and faith in their songs better than The Prayer Chain did; and no one rocked more than this group either. Dig Dug off their “Crawl” album is the ultimate struggle of faith and doubt with trail-blazing lines like “When I hold the doubts of Thomas, as hard as I hold Your promise, dig in deep, dig in deep, yeah, dig in deep!” Or the ever controversial song, “Never Enough” where they were blasted for writing a song that said the Blood of Jesus never seems to be enough, and they wrote it from the standpoint that we all feel that way sometimes, that sometimes we feel there is something we must do to “please God” when God was already pleased with Christ’s sacrifice. Other songs that caused controversy: Some Love, I Believe, Sky High, Sun Stoned, Grylliade, and Shiver.
Another remarkable name left off your list, that really trail-blazed bands like the Choir, Plankeye, even The Prayer Chain; as he is the 80’s/90’s version of Larry Norman, is Steve Taylor. How could you leave that guy off your list? Lifeboat, Jesus is for Losers (his best song, in my opinion), Banner Man, Meltdown, Smug, The Finish Line, I Manipulate, I Predict a Clone, and On the Fritz. This doesn’t even mention songs he helped co-write and direct for bands like Sixpence None The Richer, Newsboys, Dakota Motor Company, Chagall Guevarra.
I think with the current “feel good” worship of Christian music today, these artists, producers, etc need to read through the Book of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Psalms. Worship is about taking our raw emotions (love, anger, doubt, fear) and submitting them to God. That is what Christian Rock was all about, as much as it was about challenging theologians view that a Christian has to “look and act a certain way”. Christian rock properly put the focus back on God’s forgiveness and love, instead of what is sin and not sin. Why focus on what separates us from God? When we can focus on how to repair the broken relationship with forgiveness, love, and submission to His will! That is what Christian Rock did.
Thanks for the comment! We appreciate everyone that has read these articles. They were a labor of love for sure.
Both the Prayer Chain and Steve Taylor made our playlists. And Taylor even had a highlighted portion in Part 3 about his music:
“Their music was never easy. Whether it was Steve Taylor singing satirically about a deranged ice-cream delivery man blowing up an abortion clinic to preserve his livelihood, or The Choir wrestling with the grief of a miscarriage, these bands made their fans grapple with big ideas and complicated emotional reactions. In some ways, they courted controversy, not to get the spotlight as much as to shock their listeners out of their comfort and stagnation.”
I’m sure we missed some artists. You mentioned The Imperials and Andre Crouch – both trailblazers. With those two in particular, I believe we felt they didn’t really fit into the definition of Rock and Roll that we were writing about. We needed to keep our focus as narrow as possible since this thing could have really gotten out of hand easily – and been way too much work for us.
BTW, my brother (Michael who helped put these all together and wrote the intro and Part 4) and I went to The Prayer Chain concert in Nashville back in August of last year. It was an amazing show – all the bands were really good. (The Prayer Chain, The Choir, and Dakoda Motor Co.) Another REO writer was there as well – D.A. Speer, though we didn’t to watch the show with him because he had backstage passes.
As interesting as the articles are, it’s the introduction that most spoke to me. I listen to CCM Radio in the car because it beats the alternative. But, having spent 3 days last summer with Keith and Krystin Getty and their friends and influencers (Maher, Redmond, Peterson…) We are missing this music in our homes and services because we aren’t hearing it. We need to figure out how to creat air time for this current group of story-teller musicians who aren’t on the radio.
Thanks for reading! We constantly blown away at how this series has connected with people.
My first introduction to Christian Rock was Bloodgood. It blew me away and started me down a new path in my Christian music experience. Later I was introduced to Petra and Whiteheart. Today my playlists consist of a heavy dose of Red, Skillet, Disciple, and a little lesser known band called Fades Away. I love the fact that these songs challenge you to wrestle with issues rather than give you just a feel good moment for 3-5 minutes.
I’m reminded of growing up and being read to from Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories where every story ended with “And the children never did *enter bad behavior here* again!” I began to think, “What’s wrong with me?” I asked for forgiveness and was truly sorry for sins that I had committed, but I kept finding myself sliding back into those same problems again and again. It wasn’t until I heard Breath Into Me by Red that I really connected with a Christian rock band’s music in a way that spoke to this issue that I had been struggling with for half a lifetime. It showed me that I am not alone. Many many others struggle just like me and then go to church, be it on Saturday or Sunday, and pretend their lives are perfect. I don’t pretend anymore. No I don’t confess my every sin out loud to the congregation, but I am no longer afraid to let others know that I struggle. This has helped me strengthen my relationship not only with God, but with my wife and kids as well. Anyone who tells me that this genre has no place in Christianity will get an earful from me.
I can’t wait to check out some of the trailblazers mentioned in the articles. Thanks for posting. Rock on!
Thank you the comment and your openness.
I enjoyed reading the Articles. it allowed me to reminisce a bit as I thought back to when I first started listening to christian rock. in the late 70’s, early 80’s I started listening to bands like Keith Green, Benny Hester, Sweet Comfort and Larry Norman.
I started going to a Church made up mainly of high school and college age young people in the Salem, Oregon area. We had a Rock band that led worship and our church worked to bring bands like Petra, Servant and Jerusalem (Swedish band) to Salem to play in school gyms. In those days I can remember purchasing music from bands like U2 and After the Fire from the christian book stores. It was an exciting time as we grew accustomed to listening to music that had an edge and questioned whether Christians were aware we were involved in a spiritual struggle.
As we moved into the 80s and the New Wave Movement I can remember short lived christian new wave bands ( I can’t even find any references to their music anymore even though I still have some of the cassettes) like Samaja and Krumbacher, and a few others I can’t even recall now.
Kerry Livgren (Kansas) put out a solo album, Seeds Of Change (1980), with artists like Ronnie James Dio doing vocals on some of the songs. I was taken by this album because I had been a big Kansas fan in the 70s and felt like I had gone through spiritual change and growth along with Kerry Livgren. Of course, Kansas moved on to be more of a christian band after this as well.
Kemper Crabb and ArkAngel put out the album, Warrior (1980), with some absolutely amazing music. I consider this to be one of the best of all time.
Thank you for the opportunity to share,
Thanks so much for reading and for the comment!
One major influence for me was Kerry Livgren AD. He was way ahead of his time but put out some amazing music.
Hi, Thanks for this – it’s a vital point that the best music has been erased by negligence. Good to see bands like The Choir and The Call being highlighted.
If anyone wants a parallel piece with a British perspective (bands like Iona and After the Fire included) my 4-part series starts here: https://walkerwords.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/the-rise-and-fall-of-christian-rock-a-personal-view-pt-1-the-pioneers/ There are also reviews and interviews that you might enjoy on the blog.
Thanks for the comment! I will check out your series.