40 Years Later: the Jesus Music Revolution, part 3

One of the hippies who had heard about Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel from a succession of hitchhikers, was a young musician named Chuck Girard. Chuck was a resident of the Laguna Beach music scene, and after an unfulfilling journey through LSD, marijuana, and alcohol, he listened as his friend Denny Correll told him he needed to be saved. Chuck and his fellow seekers and musician friends began to read the Bible and ask all kinds of questions about what they were reading. One night, as a result of the invitation of someone whom he called “fully Christian,” as opposed to his self-described status as “mostly Christian,” Chuck found himself listening intently to the gentle teaching of Pastor Chuck Smith. “The service was very low key,” he wrote later.  “I remember being very impressed that Chuck didn’t yell or scream, just shared stuff about Jesus with a big grin on his face. I don’t remember what was preached that night, I just knew that something very powerful and important was going on in that room, and I wanted to understand it and be a part of it. I didn’t go to the altar that night, but the Spirit of God got hold of me in a big way. I began to weep deeply, as all my control and pride was broken like a twig in the presence of God. I had deep release as I wept before God, and felt such a cleanliness in my spirit, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.”[1]

In the months that followed, Chuck Girard and his also-saved friends began to take the music that they had been hearing and copying all over Los Angeles from the Laurel Canyon music scene, and modify it lyrically until they had crafted songs that communicated everything they were discovering about a life of being in love with Jesus. In short order, Love Song was born, and they humbly led the way as a new kind of troubador. No longer were the folk-rock songs of L.A. exclusively about a directionless hope for some kind of political and “leave me alone” peace, but instead, the sound was rising that both purpose and peace were found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. On Love Song’s debut, they charged out of the gate with that message, with songs like the aptly titled Changes:

I’m goin’ through changes
Changes in my mind
Holding on to good things that I find
I’m going through changes
Changes in my mind,
And I’m leaving all my emptiness behind.

And, as would be clearly seen as the Jesus Movement gained momentum, the songs they were writing were not vague, formless declarations of love for an unnamed Person. Another example from Love Song’s self-titled debut, one called Freedom, proclaimed:

 

Jesus is the One that makes me want to shout the news above the rooftops
Come on, let’s shout the joyful news and let the people know that Jesus is the Lord!
HE’S THE LORD!
He’ll do the same for you!
(He’ll give you freedom)
He’s reaching out for you!
(He’ll give you freedom)
He’s the only One who’s true!
(He’ll give you freedom)
He’ll set you free
He’ll set you free
He’ll set you free
He’ll set you free

Soon, other voices, other guitars, would join this folk-rock, hippie-born and Heaven-redeemed choir. “Music,” says Time magazine, “has become the special medium of the Jesus movement… A growing number of musical stars, including Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton, are among the Jesus movement converts. Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary has preached on the steps of Berkeley’s Sproul Hall; Jeremy Spencer of Britain’s Fleetwood Mac has joined the ultrarigid Children of God.”[2]  Dana Angle and a few musician buddies would be inspired at a Love Song concert to direct their gifts in an eternal direction, and The Way became a staple of Jesus Music at Bible studies, churches, and festivals around Southern California. A Los Angeles disc jockey named Buck Herring encouraged his wife and her newly orphaned brother and sister to start singing together, and the uber-tight harmonies of the Carpenters were reimagined as 2nd Chapter of Acts. Barry McGuire found hope from the “Eve of Destruction” in Jesus, and Larry Norman, the godfather of Christian rock, was leading Randy Stonehill to faith in Christ at his kitchen table.

On June 21, 1971, Time magazine would feature the “Jesus Revolution” as their cover story, in an article titled: “The Alternative Jesus: Psychedelic Christ.” In it, the writer seeks to describe what was making this movement, this revival, different from what was happening with the same demographic—hippies—who were not connecting to Jesus: “There is an uncommon morning freshness to this movement, a buoyant atmosphere of hope and love along with the usual rebel zeal. Some converts seem to enjoy translating their new faith into everyday life, like those who answer the phone with ‘Jesus loves you’ instead of ‘hello.’ But their love seems more sincere than a slogan, deeper than the fast-fading sentiments of the flower children; what startles the outsider is the extraordinary sense of joy that they are able to communicate.”[3]

One year later, that “extraordinary sense of joy” would be expressed by some 80,000 of these Jesus People at Explo ’72 in Dallas, Texas. Organized by Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ and dubbed “the Christian Woodstock,” Jesus Music would once again provide the soundtrack. Artists like Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Matthews, the Archers, Children of the Day, and even Johnny Cash, would take the same few musical notes, the same chords, the same sense of searching that fueled the stratospheric career of, say, the Eagles, and they would, for years to come, through records and decades-long ministries, provide the music and lyrics that still, forty years later, evoke a time of innocence amid aimlessness, peace in a time of great unrest.

And now, forty years later, as Love Song streams through my iPod, I still sing along with every word.


[1] Girard, Chuck. “My Testimony.”  http://www.chuck.org/my_testimony.htm. Accessed July 2, 2011.
[2] “The New Rebel Cry: Jesus Is Coming!” Time 21 June 1971: 61. Print.
[3] Ibid., p.56

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