Revisiting the late 60's to early 70's religious phenomenon in popular music.
Starting in the late 1960's and really starting to take hold by the early 1970's was a new type of popular music that previously was verboten on commercial music stations: alternately entitles Jesus Rock or God Rock, a wave of religious-themed songs hit the airwaves that proved tremendously popular. Even heavy rock acts picked up on this, with the juggernaut of all classic rock radio tracks, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" becoming the cornerstone of their catalogue during this period.
Roberta Flack, 1970. Courtesy of Credit: Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
It coincided with two major religious movements in North America: that of the Hare Krishnas and evangelical Christians, the latter referred to the time as Jesus People or Jesus Freaks. It is also worth noting that many people who originally self-identified as hippies also joined this movement, creating a strange type hybrid cosmic consciousness with mainstream Christianity. Interestingly, some of the composers and performers of these songs about Jesus were members of the Jewish faith as well.
Ocean, 1970. Courtesy of Jeff Jones.
"I’ve gotten letters from funeral directors telling me that it's their second-most-requested song to play at memorial services, next to 'Danny Boy'."Norman Greenbaum on his track "spirit in the sky"
Pacific Gas and Electric, 1970. Courtesy of Columbia Records.
In hindsight, it tells of the feeling and mood of Western culture, particularly in the U.S., a nation seemingly coming apart at the seems with homegrown terrorism a weekly occurrence in major cities, the assassination of major Civil Rights Leaders and the ongoing war in Vietnam. This show does not include straight ahead Christian Rock and Pop acts who solely recorded in that genre, such as Larry Norman or Keith Green, but instead illustrates that people were looking for something new, and it was reflected in the popular culture of the day.
* Spirit In The Sky, Norman Greenbaum, 1969, Spirit In The Sky* Put Your Hand In The Hand, Ocean, 1971, Put Your Hand In The Hand* My Sweet Lord, George Harrison, 1970, All Things Must Pass* Day By Day, Godspell Cast, 1973, Godspell film soundtrack* Jesus, Queen, 1973, Queen* Signs, Five Man Electrical Band, 1971, Good-Byes & Butterflies* Shambala, Three Dog Night, 1973, Cyan
* Oh Happy Day, Edwin Hawkins Singers (full-length LP version), recorded 1967/single release 1969, Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord* I Don't Know How To Love Him, Yvonne Elliman, recorded 1970/single release 1971, Jesus Christ Superstar original London stage soundtrack* Jesus Is Just Alright, The Doobie Brothers, 1972, Toulouse Street* I Told Jesus, Roberta Flack, 1969, First Take* After Forever, Black Sabbath, 1971, Master of Reality* Hallelujah, Sweathog, 1972, Hallelujah
* Are You Ready?, Pacific Gas and Electric, 1970, Are You Ready?
Love to you all.
Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr. Host, Show Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher, Videographer and Writer
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