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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

When music meant something

Ah…the 80’s. When the Christian music industry was more ministry minded and less entertainment ended. CAUTION: the following is my very opinionated stance on the ‘Christian’ music industry. Read at your own risk.

I’ve been ‘taken back’ the last few days – to the music of Rich Mullins. Just about anyone in the industry or any listener will speak highly of his music. But why? In my opinion, because he dared to say what others were afraid to say. Because his music made you think….like theology does. He didn’t write so much about a situation as much as he did a condition. Our fallen condition. And the remedy for our problem. And he did it boldly. And for whatever reason, the Lord called him Home at a young age.

I’ve been enjoying an older project of his that came out in the late 80’s – ‘Winds of Heaven…Stuff of Earth.’ You know – the same project that brought us ‘Awesome God.’ I’ve been honing in on ‘Ready for the Storm.’ Now there’s an emotional tie to that song – I own that. But the lyrics are rich (no pun intended….or maybe not) and thought provoking. Here are just a few: “The waves crash in, the tide rolls out/It’s an angry sea but there is no doubt that the lighthouse will keep shining out, to warn a lonely sailor/and the lightning strikes and the wind cuts cold/to the sailor’s bones, to the sailor’s soul/til there’s nothing left that he can hold/except a rolling ocean’ and later on ‘and when You take me by the hand and You love me, Lord, You love me/and I should have realized I had no reason to be frightened.’

Now THOSE are thought provoking lyrics. Not quite the ‘Jesus is my ____’ mush you can hear in some song lyrics – IF you can even understand what the song is saying. I’m SO tired of having to try to decipher the lyrics of a song to be able to get at the meaning. At least with Rich’s stuff you could: (1) understand what he was saying; (2) enjoy the simplicity of the music without having to strain over screaming guitar to find a voice; and (3) know a little of the heart from which it came. You see, Rich was real. I only met him once, but I still remember it. But in reading stuff he’s written – magazine articles, etc., he was a ‘lay it on the table’ kind of guy. He was, in my opinion, very well respected by others, and I believe others saw things in him they wanted to emulate. He didn’t sell out to the establishment. He didn’t take his riches from record deals and invest it in himself. He lived on a reservation to reach more people. He sang concerts bare footed and with frayed blue jean cuffs. He’d be in the audience before a show talking, or later teaching a new song. He was one of us. Real. Struggling. Just trying to do all he could for the Lord where the Lord planted him.

And that’s why I like the music of the 80’s. Other artists were ‘real’ as well. Look at the industry now…who are the musicians you want to learn from and use that experience (be it listening to their music or whatever) to help you be more like Christ? Are there musicians of that caliber out there today? Or is it more of an entertainment mindset and less ministry-minded?

I have more to say on this subject, but you’ll have to come back. But I think you get a taste of my thoughts on things.

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