have always used music to express their feelings, ideals
and dreams with the world. Contemporary Christian music,
abbreviated CCM, modern music used to show what Jesus
means to the artist, is a booming 750 million dollar business
(USA Today). CCM encompasses techno, rock, rap, alternative,
death metal, country, dance, pop, punk, hip-hop, jazz
and grunge (Lawson). How did Contemporary Christian music
begin and how has it progressed? Before the 1970s Christian
music could fit into three genres: Traditional Hymns,
Black Gospel and Southern Gospel.
the 50s Rock and Roll became very popular with the youth
of America and England. Larry Norman combined rock and
roll with Christian lyrics in 1956 and is now known as
"the father of Christian rock." Elvis Presley
arrived on the music scene and preachers "raged from
the pulpit that rock music was from the Devil and could
never be used by God" (Larry Norman (Part 1-2)).
Norman knew that rock and roll evolved from the black
gospel of American slaves and that God could use anything.
He continued to make music for the 60s generation. He
signed with the "secular" Capitol Records in
1966 and released three albums.
Peace Movement of the 60s spawned the Jesus Movement,
a Christian revival of American young people. Many of
these "Jesus People" found the traditional styles
too "restrictive and out-dated." They created
music that would appeal to their generation but kept the
Christian theme. These new styles would soon be called
Contemporary Christian music to distinguish it from the
traditional styles. CCM artists began to appear (Lawson).
Phil Keaggy, a guitarist and singer, started his Christian
rock career in 1970 with the album Glass Harp. His unique
style has helped him stay popular since then. He writes
many of his songs and has performed with many other artists
on their albums.
Girard and four friends formed the band Love Song. They
became the first group to play rock with a Christian context.
After three years, Love Song broke up and Girard has made
many solo albums since then. His first album was self
titled and had his most popular song, "Sometimes
Alleluia", on it. (Girard) A trio named 2nd Chapter
of Acts began recording in 1973. Their first two songs
started a 15 year blossoming career. They made their first
complete album in 1974. Entitled ...with footnotes , it
had a few songs that became hits.
the early 70s, Bob Carlisle, Randy Thomas and Sam Scott
performed in a small band called Psalm 150. Thomas joined
the Sweet Comfort Band with Bryan Duncan. Carlisle worked
with another small band, Good News, during that time.
Hartman played with several small bands in the 70s before
founding Petra, Greek for "rock". They put out
a self-titled album in 1974. It explored an "interesting"
variety of styles and was heavily influenced by country
music. In 1977 their sophomore release, Come and Join
Us, came out containing songs that have become classics
(Christian Music Online). Greg X. Volz joined the group
on that album and his lead vocals helped to make the group
Norman's third record, Upon This Rock, was rejected by
most Christian retailers for two years and Only Visiting
This Planet could not be found in them for six. In Another
Land , released in 1975, was successful in the Christian
market so Norman created The Compleate Trilogy which contained
Only Visiting This Planet , So Long Ago The Garden, In
Another Land and a book that told of his career. MGM Records
told him that "the gospel community wasn't ready
for his previous two albums." When he left MGM Records,
Norman started his own record label with which he produced
albums for several artists that were quite successful
(Larry Norman (Part 1-2)).
Grant began her career in 1977 with a self-titled album.
She was only 16 when it was recorded and she would soon
be on her way to innumerable awards (Christian Music Online).
Domenic Licciardello, a.k.a. Carman, started performing
Christian music in the late 70s after performing in clubs
for years. He had learned many styles of music while playing
clubs till he went to an Andrae Crouch and the Disciples
concert. He became a Christian that night. Carman decided
to use his immense musical knowledge for Jesus. "Each
song starts off with a message. I have to figure out what
the Lord wants me to say with this song, and then I have
to figure outwhat the best style is that would be most
effective. Except for speed metal. I just can't play that
1982, White Heart, a hard rock band, was formed by Mark
Gersmehl and Billy Smiley. Steve Green was the lead vocalist
till 1985 when he started a solo career. White Heart's
classic rock sound was published on three albums by Word
Records before they joined the Star Song Communications
Group (Christian Music Online).
77's, one of the first Christian bands to be labeled alternative,
began recording in the early eighties. They have continued
to be trend setters "without being trendy" because
their deep, dark lyrics are hard to place in any category
other than "underground." Because of this, very
few people have heard them (Christian Music Online).
Patty has sung Christian pop since the early eighties.
Since that Fourth of July night in 1986 when Sandi Patty's
rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" caused
the phone lines to jam at ABC News, Sandi has become one
of the nation's best loved performers. During her career
she has recieved "33 Dove awards and five Grammy
awards, [and] three platinum and five gold albums"
(Christian Music Online).
Records took Steve Taylor under its wing in 1982 and his
first album, I Want to be a Clone, was released the next
year. His songs feature lyrics that are easily misunderstood.
For example, in "I Blew up the Clinic Real Good"
listeners didn't hear "the flashing neon lyric in
the middle of the song that says, 'The end don't justify
the means anytime.' What better example to use than a
clinic bomber?" Taylor meant for the song to be a
satire that would convince people that being so rash is
Grant's keyboardist, Michael W.Smith recorded the Michael
W. Smith Project in 1983. His pop sound is as unique as
Grant's. He first recorded "Friends" early in
his career and it has reappeared several times because
his audiences love it (The Difinitive Michael W. Smith
Pages). Bob Carlisle, Randy Thomas and Sam Scott founded
the Allies in 1985 succeeding the Sweet Comfort Band.
They signed with Light Records and put out a self-titled
rock group Guardian started recording in 1985 with Enigma/Capitol
Records. After the first album they decided to sign with
a small Christian company, Pakaderm, and created the popular
Fire and Love. Four months later, Enigma filed bankruptcy
(Christian Music Online).
changed lead singers in 1986 and this new sound from John
Schlitt caused the band to increase in popularity. Schlitt's
stage performance has brought many return concert goers).
Soldiers for Christ, or S.F.C., was one of the first Christian
rap groups. It was founded by Chris Cooper in 1987. In
the beginning, the Dynamic Twins worked with Cooper until
they decided to seperate from S.F.C.
Disciples of Christ, started performing in 1987 and when
they became Christians they decided to continue their
music. Their music style is called funk, a mixture of
rap, hip-hop, and rhythm and blues. They first appeared
in the CCM market on a sampler of rap artists put out
by Star Song. That sampler "dropped" the proverbial
"bomb" and has led to three albums so far. On
the second one they performed a song with heavy metal
band Bride (Christian Music Online).
rock band showed up in 1988. This one though had something
special, Australian members and the accent to go with
it. The Newsboys came to the top of the charts in 1992
with Not Ashamed. It's gotten to be old news over the
past few years; the Newsboys release a new project, it
wins awards, sells a ton of records, they tour before
a couple million people, they appear on the covers of
magazines and on national TV. Ho hum. Of course, if it's
a formula, most bands in America want the recipe.
comedian Mark Lowry got a big career boost in 1988 when
he met Bill Gaither. Gaither let him join the southern
gospel Gaither Vocal Band which allowed him to get started
in the music business. Soon afterward he began combining
his comedy with his music. He has made parodys of very
popular Christian songs like Michael W. Smith's "Place
in this World". His parody, "Face in this World",
discusses getting plastic surgery. In the video, Lowry
ends up getting Smith's face. He combines these parodies
with other comical songs and skits on each album (Christian
McKeehan and Michael Tait formed DC Talk in 1989 and Kevin
Smith joined them soon afterwards. They founded the group
in Washington D.C. and the name was a reference to the
city but Forefront Communications suggested that they
say the DC stands for "decent Christian" Talk.
Thus was born the foremost Christian rap group by mixing
rap (McKeehan), rock (Smith) and soul (Tait). (USA Today)
Also in 1989, Mark Mohr founded a Christian reggae band
called Christafari . Gotee Recods recently grabbed them
up. Their first album, Soul Fire, has "climbed to
the upper reaches of the charts." Their special brand
of reggae has grabbed the attention of many radio listeners
with singles from that album (NetCentral).
Grant's "crossover" album, Heart in Motion,
was a major success in Christian and "secular"
music stores. It was nominated for album of the year.
The hit video, "Baby Baby" was nominated for
at the MTV Awards. She has won 17 Dove awards, four of
which were "Artist of the Year" awards (Christian
Contempoary Christian music has kept up with the popular
music styles. Today, there are artists for every genre.
Punk rock by Magnified Plaid, techno by the World Wide
Message Tribe, gangsta rap by the Gospel Gangstas, alternative
by Jars of Clay and country by Midsouth are being played
in Christians' houses and cars. CCM now has its own section
in record stores, magazines specific to it and is a presence
on the Internet.
is a critical issue for many of our churches today. For
instance, the Digest of Regulations and Rubrics of Catholic
Church Music written in 1961 states that, "The use
of the piano is forbidden in church as also that of all
more or less noisy instruments, such as drums of any kind,
cymbals, bells, and so on." While many churches today
accept the piano as a suitable instrument, percussive
instruments are often excluded from worship. Similarly
electric guitars and saxophones bear the stigma of popular
culture and they are seldom found except in the most "progressive"
success of Christian artists with both religious and crossover
hits in the recording industry highlights issues of musical
style and lyrics. Pastors and priests, families and churches
struggle to discern the hazy demarcation between unsuitable
secular music and music that is appropriate for private
listening or for church services. Some churches have purged
all traces of popular music, while others, however, appear
to embrace it by singing secular tunes recast with Christian
lyrics. The reuse of secular melodies bears a similarity
to the contrafacta of Luther's time. Some may view a style
of rock music or heavy metal appropriate so long as the
lyrics are Christian in nature, yet others would consider
this music a mockery of Christianity.
of all the "good fruit" criteria is commonly
employed by some Christians to determine appropriate music.
The good fruit criteria is based upon biblical passages
such as Matthew 7:17-20 and James 3:9-13 that state that
only good fruit can come from good trees and fresh water
from a good spring. Proponents of this criteria assert
that the product of the music, such as conversions to
Christ or a more fervent religious life in a listening
believer, provide evidence of the music’s suitability.
Since the result of the music is good, the music itself
must be good. They may also assert that only Christians
are able to produce Christian music.
overview of Christian musical history and our brief assessment
of music in American churches today clearly does not reach
consensus on all four criteria of instrumentation, style,
text, or good fruit. Acceptable instrumentation differs
from church to church and styles of music greatly vary.
The good fruit criteria is problematic, for some music
may benefit one Christian yet harm another. Thus, the
music could be said to bear both good and bad fruit. For
the most part Christians have agreed only on the criteria
of text: words should be biblically based or in accord
with Christian doctrine and theology.
examining the musical choices of Christian churches today
and in the past, a skeptic might convincingly assert that
apart from text there is no element or elements that make
certain music distinctly "Christian." The criteria
by which Christians have chosen music is ambiguous at
best and sometimes even contradictory. Yet I and perhaps
others are not comfortable with the conclusion that the
only "Christian" element in music is the text.
Surely we experience other Christian elements in music.
difficulty with determining which music is or isn’t
Christian results from the assumption that Christian music
(apart from text) contains musical-spiritual encryption
that is absent in non-Christian music. This is similar
to asserting that Christian food contains dietary or spiritual
supplements different from non-Christian food. The essence
of the Christian experience resides not with the musical
object (a song, a recording, a rhythmic pattern, an instrument,
etc.) or cuisine, but rather with our interaction with
and our attitudes towards music.