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No Sympathy for the Devil

No Sympathy for the Devil: Christian Pop Music and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism

David W. Stowe
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    No Sympathy for the Devil
    Book Description:

    In this cultural history of evangelical Christianity and popular music, David Stowe demonstrates how mainstream rock of the 1960s and 1970s has influenced conservative evangelical Christianity through the development of Christian pop music. For an earlier generation, the idea of combining conservative Christianity with rock--and its connotations of nonreligious, if not antireligious, attitudes--may have seemed impossible. Today, however, Christian rock and pop comprises the music of worship for millions of Christians in the United States, with recordings outselling classical, jazz, and New Age music combined.Shining a light on many of the artists and businesspeople key to the development of Christian rock, Stowe shows how evangelicals adapted rock and pop in ways that have significantly affected their religion's identity and practices. The chart-topping, spiritually inflected music created a space in popular culture for talk of Jesus, God, and Christianity, thus lessening for baby boomers and their children the stigma associated with religion while helping to fill churches and create new modes of worship. Stowe argues that, in the four decades since the Rolling Stones first unleashed their hit song "Sympathy for the Devil," the increasing acceptance of Christian pop music by evangelicals ultimately has reinforced a variety of conservative cultural, economic, theological, and political messages.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0324-7
    Subjects: Religion, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-10)

    Sex, drugs, and . . . what else is there? The storied triumvirate of American youth culture since the Beatles. Three pillars that propped up much of the counterculture of the late sixties and that seem, despite the best efforts of moralists, politicians, and parents, to have fastened a kind of permanent grip on adolescents (and often postadolescents) coming of age in the leisurely fashion of recent decades.

    Focused on one of the most powerful forms of American music, this book shows how that other famous trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—came to rub shoulders, hips, and thighs with...

  4. Chapter 1 JESUS ON THE BEACH
    (pp. 11-33)

    Hundreds of long-haired kids cluster around a public beach, perching on rocks overlooking Pirate’s Cove, a small inlet off Corona del Mar near Costa Mesa, California. Cars jam the parking lot, full of blissful teens and twentysomethings singing gospel songs they’ve just learned. People emerge from cars and find spots on the beach, singing, greeting strangers, and encouraging them to know Jesus. The sound of young voices and guitars mixes with the rolling surf and breezes streaming off the Pacific. People of all ages are there: surfers; kids in cutoffs, bikinis, tie-dyed shirts, or long granny dresses; vacationing families; relatives...

  5. Chapter 2 JESUS ON BROADWAY
    (pp. 34-57)

    The most important early Christian rocker emerged out of a different orbit than the Orange County crowd turned on by Lonnie Frisbee. In contrast to Jesus People formed in the dense social network of Calvary Chapel, Larry Norman was always a bit of a loner, an odd man out. He came from San Francisco, grew his pale-blond hair really long, and rode a motorcycle, but otherwise he was straight as a razor. No acid, no dope, no ardent hippie chicks. Born in Texas in 1947, Norman retained a slight southern twang in his voice despite moving to the Bay Area...

  6. Chapter 3 GODSTOCK
    (pp. 58-80)

    On a stifling June Friday in Dallas, upwards of 200,000 spectators descended on a grassy right-of-way soon to be a freeway near the downtown to participate in the official coming-out day for Jesus rock. An enormous stage, half as wide as a football field, had been erected for what was billed as the Saturday Jesus Music Festival, the grand finale to Explo ’72. Starting at 7:25 A.M., a procession of bands and performers ascended a three-tiered, thirty-fivefoot-high set designed by the man who had just created the backdrop for the Grammy awards. Looking very Peter Max, the stage was festooned...

  7. Chapter 4 SOUL ON CHRIST
    (pp. 81-104)

    The same month that Jesus People of many shapes and sizes descended on Dallas for Godstock, Atlantic Records releasedAmazing Grace, a double album by Aretha Franklin. Recorded a few months earlier at two consecutive night services at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles,Amazing Gracewas a kind of homecoming for the soul superstar. Aretha was backed by the Southern California Community Choir under the direction of gospel titan James Cleveland, whom she had known as a girl in Detroit; the young Cleveland had been the musical director at New Bethel Baptist Church, where Aretha’s father,...

    (pp. 105-123)

    “Last night I had a dream,” June Carter told Johnny Cash in 1966. Not yet married, they were staying at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. “I saw you on a mountaintop in Israel, and you had a book in your hand—maybe it was a Bible—and you were talking to millions of people about Jesus.” The idea unnerved Cash, because he knew at that point he “wasn’t physically and spiritually able for such a role”—he was just beginning to think about fighting a crippling addiction to pills. But they continued to think about the dream. “A few...

  9. Chapter 6 LET’S GET MARRIED
    (pp. 124-141)

    In October 1974, two months after Nixon stepped down, Al Green had his hands full. The twenty-eight-year-old soul sensation was spending long hours at a ramshackle recording studio in a Memphis ghetto with his producer, Willie Mitchell, trying desperately to keep alive a series of Top 10 hits that began in 1970. And he was juggling women. He had a longtime girlfriend named Laura Lee, but he had recently met a “radiant and ravishing” femme fatale. “I loved Laura and there were times . . . when she was closer to me than any other human being had ever been,”...

  10. Chapter 7 SHOCK ABSORBERS
    (pp. 142-166)

    By 1975 the Jesus Movement had pretty much dropped off the media radar screen. After the Nixon landslide, oil shocks, and Watergate, the hippie spirituality with which the decade began seemed out of a different era. But the audience for Christian rock continued to grow. New festivals of Christian pop music continued to spring up in parts of the country not associated with the celebrated California scene: Jesus ’74 in Pennsylvania, Salt ’75 in Michigan, Fishnet ’75 in Virginia, Jesus ’75 Midwest in St. Louis, the Sonshine Festival in Ohio, Lodestone in Vancouver, Road Home Celebration in Colorado, the Jesus...

    (pp. 167-189)

    ANewsweekcover from October 1976 shows a well-dressed preacher with his back to the camera, his left hand pointed upward with index finger extended, and his right hand resting on the head of a burly-looking young man who looks like he might be a football player. The preacher has mod hair and is wearing a bright-patterned shirt collar spreading wide around his neck. Above his head, in large type, is “Born Again!”; below, simply, “The Evangelicals.”

    “Year of the Evangelical”—that was the label that stuck to America’s bicentennial year, thanks toNewsweek.In good newsmagazine fashion, the article...

    (pp. 190-214)

    On 20 January 1977, Jimmy Carter stood in front of the Capitol to give his brief, eight-minute inaugural address. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good,” he said, quoting the Old Testament prophet Micah, “and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Then he and Rosalyn set off down Pennsylvania Avenue on foot to the White House, establishing a precedent. His first meeting in the Oval Office was with Max Cleland, a former Georgia state senator and paraplegic Vietnam vet who, as a...

  13. Chapter 10 LAST DAYS
    (pp. 215-242)

    As Carter stumbled and the Religious Right began to muster its newly energized forces, remnants of the Jesus Movement found its new Promised Land. While prophecy-minded evangelicals like Hal Lindsey and Jerry Falwell may have been cheering Israel’s burgeoning settlements in Palestine as necessary fulfillment of scripture, a small but determined band of Jesus People, mainly California transplants, had begun clustering about eighty miles east of Dallas, creating their own New Jerusalem near the little town of Lindale, Texas.

    On her first trip to East Texas, Melody Green remembered being struck by the “huge vistas of open, green fields” as...

    (pp. 243-250)

    Did Christian rock help usher in the Reagan Revolution? That it changed the way American evangelicals worship and locate themselves socially is indisputable. Worship music is not theologically neutral; the tunes and texts of songs carry powerful messages about belief, both implicit and explicit. Likewise, if the preceding chapters have shown anything it is that theology is not politically neutral. Music shapes how people make sense of themselves, God, and the world, and these beliefs have important consequences for how they live their lives—including which candidates get their votes. Musicians of the Jesus Movement provided the original model for...

    (pp. 251-254)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 255-270)
    (pp. 271-284)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 285-291)