Revisiting the late 60's to early 70's religious phenomenon in popular music.
"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, singer and songwriter of "Spirit In The Sky".
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.
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 of cosmic consciousness with mainstream Christianity. Interestingly, some of the performers of these songs were members of the Jewish faith who had become "born again" during this time as well.
Roberta Flack, 1970. Photographer unknown, courtesy of Atlantic 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.
Our tracks this week: Title, Artist, Year
1. Spirit In The Sky, Norman Greenbaum, 1970
2. Put Your Hand In The Hand, Ocean, 1971
3. My Sweet Lord, George Harrison, 1970
4. Day By Day, Godspell Cast, 1973 (film soundtrack version)
5. Jesus, Queen, 1973
6. Signs, Five Man Electrical Band, 1971
7. Shambala, Three Dog Night, 1973
8. Oh Happy Day, Edwin Hawkins Singers (full-length LP version), recorded 1967/single release 1969
9. I Don't Know How To Love Him, Yvonne Elliman, recorded 1970/single release 1971
10. Jesus Is Just Alright, The Doobie Brothers, 1972
11. I Told Jesus, Roberta Flack, 1970
12. After Forever, Black Sabbath, 1971
13. Wade In the Water, Pacific Gas and Electric, 1971
Love to you all.
Ben "Bear" Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX