CHAPTER THREE - RELIGIOUS ROCK N ROLL
"I was using dope, marijuana, angel dust, cocaine, and heroin with pills and drinking and all I wanted to do was have orgies...rock n roll doesnt glorify God... I was one of the pioneers of that music, one of the builders. I know what the blocks are made of because I built them" - LITTLE RICHARD
In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the "Jesus Movement" swept major areas of the country - Southern California in particular - and helped spawn a new musical style: so-called contemporary Christian music.
Most of the new converts in the movement were young people burned out by drugs, shifting sexual morality, and hedonistic life-styles. Soon hundreds were flocking to Costa Mesa's Calvary Chapel, pastored by Chuck Smith, and other similar churches where the long-haired, blue-jean-dressed youths were welcomed.
Part of Calvary Chapels attraction was a Saturday night concert by different artists and musical groups in the congregation. In time, a new musical style was birthed - wedding, folk, country, and rock music with religious lyrics.
Even though the word "contemporary" is difficult to define within the Christian concept, it does imply conformity with todays worldly standards. Websters Dictionary defines contemporary simply as "existing or occuring at the same time."
From its very beginnings, I sensed the musical form was an attempt to come as close as possible to secular rock and roll without actually using that name. Such a suggestion in the musical trends infancy would have been unthinkable and certainly would have been widely opposed within the church.
In fact, the plug was pulled at a 1974 music festival in Pennsylvania on a singer dressed as a "cosmic cowboy" - waist long hair, a thick, untrimmed beard, and earring - and his band of rockers. That singer's music would be considered tame by todays standards.
Yet as time passed, just as pop music shifted and changed, so did contemporary Christian music. By 1985, those artists embracing this sound had begun calling their music by what it really is - rock and roll.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).
In considering rock and roll music, a person would have to ask himself, "Is secular rock music a good and perfect gift?" The answer to that is pretty obvious. Absolutely not!
Further he would have to ask, "Is religious rock a good and perfect gift considering, especially, that it has its roots in secular rock?" That answer is obvious as well.
A further study gives us a picture of rocks birth.
THE ORIGINS OF ROCK
When rock music started back in the early 1950's, it was bad, but it was a far cry from what it has become today - vulgar, obscene, and so utterly degraded there is nothing good that can be said about it. Frank Zappa symbolized the rock message in LIFE magazine saying, "Rock music is sex."
In detailing the origins of rock music, Ira Peck, in the book, THE NEW SOUND YES, wrote:
"There in the late 1930's in the fields and shanties of the delta country, evolved an earthy, hard-driving style of music called "rhythm and blues" - played by blacks for blacks. Cured in misery, it was a lonesome, soul-sad music full of cries and wails punctuated by a heavy, regular beat."
Songs like "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "Rock Around the Clock" no doubt effected the terminology of the music, but a Cleveland disc jockey, Alan Freed, was the man who actually coined the term.
Freed, who was one of the first whites to play rhythm and blues over the radio, didnt know what to call this wild music that caused girls - sitting in the front row of concerts - to become frantic...screaming, crying, and trying to rip the clothes off some of the performers.
The disc jockey, who was later indicted in the payola scandals, finally borrowed the term "rock and roll" which was a ghetto expression sometimes used to mean sexual intercourse. The term, of course, characterized the wickedness inherent in this new music craze.
I doubt I'll ever forget that period because my cousin Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the prime movers in the birth of rock and roll as a music form. Jerry Lee, Elvis Presley, Church Berry, and Little Richard were the first superstars of the movement.
It was Presley who gave the music national exposure when he stepped before one of the largest TV audiences of the day on the Ed Sullivan Show and belted out one of his songs such as "Dont Be Cruel" or "Hound Dog"
With his hair flipping in his face, his hips gyrating, and his voiced charged with emotion, he was considered so sensual at one time that one or two of Sullivans programs televised his performance from a camera angle at the waist up.
THE NEW SOUND YES said about Presley:
"He outraged adult sensibilities. But the more parents, moralists, clergymen, and critics railed against him, the more teenagers flipped for him. Elvis was, for them, the supreme symbol of juvinile rebellion"
Sam Phillips, owner of SUN Records in Memphis, who first recorded Elvis, was quoted as saying "Ive found a white man who sings like a black." Musical history had been made.
Presley not only created a stir on television when he appeared, but riots broke out in a number of towns where he performed. Rock concerts were banned in some cities. Finally, a Senate subcommittee began invistigating the link between rock music and juvenile delinquency.
About the same time rock and roll music was launched, a peculiar event occured during a Pentecostal church service in Canada. People were coming to the altar for prayer, when a young woman suddenly fell to the floor and began writhing like a snake and making hissing sounds.
The church's pastor immediately moved to where the girl lay and attempted to rebuke the demonic oppression. Yet there was no visible effect to his efforts.
He stepped back momentarily and prayed, "Lord, whats wrong? I dont understand why the oppresion isnt lifted from this girl."
The Lord spoke to the pastor: "Rebuke the spirit for what it is.. call it a counterfeit fo the Holy Ghost."
When the pastor took that bold step, a profane spirit suddenly spoke from the girl before she was set free. "I am a prince and I have come down... I have come down to possess a race...the youth of the world."
Without question, what has happened in the last thirty years has been nothing more than the youth of this world being possessed by demons - through rock music.
DEATH IN MUSIC
Elvis - the so-called "king of rock" - became a victim of the culture when he died of a drug overdose in August 1977. His personal physician admitted that Presley gobbled up vast amounts of drugs "...from the time he woke up in the morning until the time he went to sleep at night."
Jerry Lee, as well as Chuck Berry, continues to perform even though my cousin has been near death a number of times because of his life-style. Little Richard has made several public professions of faith in Christ over the years - even holding revival meetings for a time. But the last report, he was singing what he called "message" music and recently appeared in a cameo role in the movie, "Down and Out in Beverly Hills."
Still, the music they helped create has persisted over the years and today destroys more lives than ever.
It all started out with what might today be referred to as "plain rock" or basic rock and roll. This was the carefree "lets party" music of the 1950s
This soon deteriorated into "hard rock" - the music of the mid to late 1960s characterized by groups from England such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Animals, and others.
Eight years after Elvis had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show - Feburary 1964 - the Beatles appeared before an estimated 60 million people, one of the largest TV audiences in history. The group, with its heavy, amplified music, long hair, undersized suits, high-healed boots, and tight harmonies, was an instant hit.
The Rolling Stones tenth album, BEGGAR'S BANQUET, released in December 1968 after wrangling with their record company over the public toilet cover art, charted new ground for rock and roll. The albums opening song was entitled "Sympathy for the Devil" and would influence rock groups, album concepts, and musical influence for years to come.
In the late 1960's, during the time of the Vietnam war, the rock message centered around anti-establishment themes of protest, violence, drugs, and sex. Rock artists such as Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash became immensely popular.
In observing the changes in our society then, TIME magazine stated in its February 22, 1971 edition:
"The counterculture sprang more than anything else from rock-n-roll music. The shattering, obliterating volume...amounted to a new form of violence...coupled with the anarchic, brute-sexual rhythm and lyrics of rock-n-roll music. The counterculture is the worlds first socio-political movement to grow out of the force of electronically amplified music"
An "acid rock" phase of the music came along in the late 1960's and early 1970s influenced by the continual portrayal of drugs in rock lyrics. Groups such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead popularized this sound.
Three of rock's best-known performers - Jimi Hendriz, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison - all died within a matter of months of each other. Hendrix, who played the guitar in what he called "a big flash of weaving and bobbing, and groping and maiming, and attack" died of a drug overdose in September 1970.
A short two weeks later, Joplin, who had climbed to fame as a young blues singer with Big Brother and the Holding Company, was found with her head split open from a fall, after overdosing on heroin. At her death, her body was riddled with syphilis.
In the book FREAKSHOW, writer Albert Goldman described Morrison:
"Abundantly gifted as a singer and songwriter, Morrison is , above all, at his most entrancing, onstage...Morrison - in any of his aspects - is energized by a ferocious eroticism. Totally uninhibited he appears to be always in a state of smoldering and eruptive sexual excitement."
After a brief, but highly successful, career as lead singer of the Doors, Morrison quit the group and moved to Paris. His body, already wrecked by alcohol, caused his heart to quit. In July 1971 he died in his bath. He was 28.
The early to late 1970's became the era of the super groups such as Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, and the Who. These bands drew thousands of young people to their concerts in the worlds largest stadiums and coliseums.
In the late 1970's came the ear-shattering heavy metal groups such as Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, KISS, AC/DC, and Van Halen. Many of these bands are still around today, along with groups such as Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourn, and Bon Jovi. The direction behind such heavy metal bands music is sex, drugs and satanism.
Rocks trend today is toward punk or the new wave sound. It is characterized by groups like Plasmatics, New York Dolls, and Talking Heads, who project rebellion agaisnt parental authority, anarchy, and bodily perversion - much of it more extreme than simple pornography.
Nihilism is the binding force behind punk rockers. Its the belief that there is no meaning or purpose in existence. These people who embrace such music generally reject all customary beliefs in morality, religion, and social standards. Punk rockers stand for nothing more than total rebellion against society.
Punk rock has a constant reference to violence, and violence is nothing more than worship to Satan.
Alfred Aronowitz, former music critic for teh NEW YORK POST, has written:
"If the establishment knew what todays popular music is really saying, not only what the words are saying but what the music itself is saying, they wouldnt just turn thumbs down on it. They'd ban it, they'd smash all the records, and they'd arrest anyone who tried to play it.
ROCKS RELATION TO RELIGION
As far as music was concerned, 1950's-style rock music was little different from some of the music that had been played in various church services over the years. That may sound strange to some people but it is, nonetheless, true.
In fact, virtually all of the early stars of rock music were all products of either the church itself or had gospel music backgrounds. Among them were Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Roy Hamilton, Pat Boone, and Marvid Gaye. The list could cover several pages if I listed all the individuals.
This 1950s-style rock was basically done in four-four time with double measure used on some songs. If a person went back to the old Billy Sunday cursades 75 or 80 years ago with the great choirs led by Homer Rodeheaver, he would have heard basically the same rhythm patterns.
It wouldnt have the same impact of course, simply because they didnt have the electric instrumentation we do now, but the rhythm patterns were the same.
People by the thousands would clap their hands and sing, "Brighten the Corner Where You Are" or "When We All Get To Heaven" and enjoy themselves immensely in the Lord.
However, it was the same rhythm pattern that Elvis Presley and my cousin Jerry Lee were singing. So the music wasnt new. In fact, I believe it drew much of its influence from the church. In many full-gospel churches, the same type of musical worship was carried on and has been at least a part of the success of the great Pentecostal form of worship.
Rhythm within itself is not wrong. Its only when its used incorrectly that the problem arises.
Man is a tripartite being - spirit, soul, and body. In this triune being there is another complez creation of God. It is harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic.
The harmonic area of man deals with music but also relates to speech and thought patterns. The harmonic part of man functions within the spirit realm.
The melodic, or melody, relates to the soul and affects the lyrical and cadence of speech within man.
The rhythmic, or rhythm, relates to the flesh of man - his physical body.
All of this represents Gods creation and stands together as a part of mans spiritual, physical, and psychological makeup. As such, within themselves, they are not evil.
However, these portions of mans being can be perverted to the point where the natural senses become degraded and cease to worship God and, instead, worship or cater to the devil or to the wicked impulses of the flesh.
For instance, when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, they played tambourines and had a camp meeting on the shores of that great waterway. They danced befor the Lord in great joy.
Its virtually impossible to play a tambourine without doing so in a rhythmic fashion. Consequently, these Israelites who had just witnessed a mighty miracle from God were playing in rhythm. Of course, it was sanctioned by the Holy Spirit.
There are seven basic words that describe ancient Jewish worship as found in the Old Testament and which have been carried over into the New Testament. One of these words is "zamar", which means "to touch the strings"
This word is used in connection with instrumental worship. It has to do with percussion, wind, or rhythm instruments. Examples are found in Psalm 57:9 and Psalm 150.
The Greek word for "psalms" in James 5:13 is "psallo", which means "to twitch or twang, or to play on a stringed instrument."
So rhythm within itself is not wrong. Even though this element of rhythm may be in rock, pop, folk, or even gospel music, it constitutes nothing wrong as such. Unless the music overpowers the message, then the rhythm becomes all-important. Then the music takes on an entirely different complexion.
THE RHYTHM OF ROCK
In noting mans rhythmic physical nature, Dr. John Diamond observed that man is rhythmic in respiration, heartbeat, pulse, speech, and gait. When the rhythm of music corresponds to the natural body rhythms, the suggested, it produces ecstasy, alertness, and peace, energizes the mind and body, and facilitates balance and self-control.
Dr. David Nobel, a music authority reporting on the value of music rhythms corresponding to body rhythms, has written:
"None of these qualities accrue to the rock sound. Instead rock contains harmonic dissonance and melodic discord while it accents rhythm with a big beat. In fact, the anapestic beat used by many rock musicians actually is the exact opposite of our heart and arterial rhythms.""
Dr. Diamond reported that the stopped anapestic rhythm "heightens stress and anger, reduces output, increases hyperactivity, and weakens muscle strenth."
Music composer and couductor Dimitri Tiomkin said of the rock sound: "...Youngsters who listen constantly to this sort of sound are thrust into turmoil. They are no longer relaxed, normal kids."
What these professionals are saying is that todays rock sound fights against the rhythmic nature of mans creation.
ROCK - THE DESTROYER
Rock and roll, both the music and the life-style, has literally trapped and destroyed the lives of millions of people. The death count of the rock musicians themselves, who have succumbed over the years to their own life-styles, would cover page after page if I began listing the names and describing their destructive fates.
Just a brief look at the individuals who died from drug overdoses or from alcohol-related deaths resulting in suffocation from vomit would include the following:
Tommy Bolin (1950-1975), from Deep Purple and James Gang
Tim Buckley (1947-1975)
Nick Drake (1948-1974)
Tim Hardin (1940-1980)
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
Gregory Herbert (1950-1978), from Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Janis Joplin (1943-1970)
Frankie Lymon (1942-1968)
Robbie McIntosh (1944-1974), from Average White Band
Keith Moon (1946-1978)
Gram Parsons (1946-1973)
Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
Sid Vicious (1958-1979), from the Sex Pistols
Bon Scott (1947-1980) from AC/DC
Danny Whitten (1945-1972), from Crazy Horse
Alan Wilson (1943-1970), from Canned Heat
John Bonham (1948-1980), from Led Zeppelin
The list of rock and rollers who committed suicide would include the following persons:
Johnny Ace (1929-1954)
Ian Curtis (1959-1980), from Joy Division
Peter Ham (1947-1975), from Bad Finger
Donny Hathaway (1945-1979)
Phil Ochs (1940-1976)
Rory Storme (1940-1974)
Paul Williams (1939-1973), from the Temptations.
Of course, names missing from this listing would include the elevn young people who were trampled to death at a 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati. They were trapped inside a crowd surging to get inside the coliseum and were crushed under the feet of the uncontrolled mob.
Also not included would be the five people knifed or beaten to death by the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, hired as security guards for a free Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Motor Speeday outside San Fransisco in 1969.
The list does not include the 1,600 teenagers who attempt suicide every day - some of which succeed. Nor does it contain the millions of young people whose lives have been wrecked - and some destroyed - because of drugs, illicet sex, or satanism championed by rock and roll music.
The music and its accompanying life-style is the predominate influence in the life of a typical teenager. Its influence overshadows family, school, and church. Rock stars are the heroes to this generation.
Yet rock music is one of the most destructive forces in this nation. As Dr. David Nobel correctly stated, it is nothing more than "pornography set ot music"
It seems absolutely inconceivable to me that any group which considers itself Christian would accept the rock and roll designation - especially when one considers the horror that has been imposed on generation after generation by this form of music.
Yet there are many performers who boldly proclaim their Christianity while still openly professing they are also rock and rollers. Mylon LeFevre is one such person.
"I'M A ROCK AND ROLLER"
Contemporary Christian Magazines profile on Mylon Lefevre, in its March 1986 edition, quotes Mylon as saying:
"Our music is rock and roll. We dont even tell anybody its contemporary Christian music...We are a rock n roll band. We sound like one, we look like one, and at the end of the night we smell like one..."
As a youngster Mylon performed with his parents southern gospel group and he wrote popular gospel songs. Fired from the group in a dispute over the length of his sideburns, Mylon took the opportunity to record some rock songs he had written but the family wouldnt record.
What followed were years of heroin addiction and recording and performing with some of the worlds most famous rock musicians. He made a full surrender of his life to Christ in April 1980 and returned to Christian music in 1982. But evidently a change has come about.
In describing what he does now, Mylon stated:
"Its a rock n roll show that is a ministry. You cant separate the two. Rock n roll is what I do. I put on a good show. I entertain those people. I have a good time with them..."
Rock and roll is a ministry? I would have to ask the question, "What type of ministry?" For someone to suggest that rock and roll is the same as a biblical ministry has to be the most far-out statement that could ever be uttered.
Earlier we have described the origins of rock and roll. It should be obvious as to what rock and roll is and what it has done in millions of lives. By simply adding the word "Christian" does not change anything, nor does attempting to justify it as "ministry." That is little more than blasphemy or total ignorance.
To prove my point, look at these sentences: "I put on a good show. I entertain those people. I have a good time with them.
Can you imagine the Apostle Paul "putting on a good show"?
What type of "entertainment" do you think Simon Peter engaged in?
Is there anything in the Bible, and more specifically, is there anything in the New Testament that has to do with "putting ona good show," "entertaining people", and "having a good time with them"?
"And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost" (Luke 23:44-46)
"...in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep" (2 Cor. 11:23-25)
Upon a simple investigation, I believe it would be very difficult to coincide a "good show" or "entertainment" or a "good time" with the passages I have quoted.
DESTINY magazine interviewed Mylon for an article on contemporary "Christian" music in its May/June 1986 issue. In answer to a question, "why do you keep playing this loud music to teenagers? Youre forty-one years old."
Mylon said in part:
"...I was a rock n roller for twenty-five years and what God showed me is I am now a "born-again, Spirit filled, rock n roller who has been called to preach teach and make disciples."
I have no problem with Mylons Christian convictions or his heart motives. All of those can be correct - as with any individual - and yet their methods can be totally wrong, even foreign to the Gospel.
It is my conviction that rock music cannot be used to communicate spiritual truth. I cannot possibly see how rock music, with its origins in demonic activities, can apply to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Convictions must be based on the Word of GOd and not personal tastes, likes, and dislikes. Most of religious rock or so-called contemporary Christian music draws its inspiriation from secular rock and roll. The result is worldliness in the music - and even worse, worldliness through music invading the church. Further, it authenticates the rock sound by having people who are supposed to be Christians playing the music.
Thus, when I apply the standards of the Bible to this form of worldliness, I recognize the wrongness of such music. The Scripture states in the following places:
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing..." (2 Cor. 6:17)
"Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22)
"And be not conformed to this world..." (Rom. 12:2).
When I consider these Scriptures in the light of where rock and roll came from and the evil influence it has had in destroying millions of lives, there is no question in my mind: religious rock has no place in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.