Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music--Book and CD-ROMEncyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music--Book and CD-ROM
Mark Allan Powell
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This groundbreaking work covers both major and minor Christian music artists and those associated with Christian music from the '60s to the present day, highlighting their influences, their struggles, and their achievements. Powell treats each artist or group with a balanced, intriguing, and fresh look into their background and discography. Every entry summarizes critical response to the group, and provides band member lists, complete discographies, lists of awards, artist website addresses, and biographies of the artists. The fun, easy-to-read writing style provides fans with accessible information on their favorite artists, while also encouraging them to greater appreciation of the stylistic breadth and historical depth of the music they have come to love. The CD-ROM features a searchable version of the complete text for both Windows and Macintosh systems, as well as live links to artist-websites, album information, and music clips.
     

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Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music
By Mark Allan Powell

Preface

I thought about being a rock star. In fact, at one point there were only two things standing between me and success: 1) looks; and 2) talent. I figure if I had either I could have made it. Lacking both, I went into theology and landed a less exotic career as a professor. The one good thing about being a professor is that you slave for six years and then get something special called a sabbatical. Itís like the Jacob and Laban deal in the Bible, except they donít let you sleep with two women. Instead, they give you a year off to pursue a special research project.
So one could say that this whole thing started as a bit of a scam, by which I figured out how I could get my school to pay me to sit around and listen to rock and roll for a year. Yeah, and it worked, too! Except that, eventually, I did have to write the thing. Or one could view it as a legitimate research project. Perhaps Iím just buying my own hype, but I see this book as making a worthy contribution in two areas: a) the history of popular music; and b) the history of Christianity.
My school probably has little interest in the first, but I have. Letís face itórock and roll (and by that I mean the whole enterprise, not just Christian rock) has done a lot more for the good of humanity in the last thirty-plus years than all the theologians on the planet. This music has brought so much joy into so many peopleís lives, while also challenging, stimulating, involving, and inspiring them in undefinable and remarkable ways. Martin Luther thought music was the second best of all Godís gifts, behind theologyóbut then heíd never heard the Beatles. All Iím saying is, rock and roll is a beautiful thing, and it is my contention that the history of rock cannot be understood without consideration of the square pegs and misfits who inhabit the pages of this book. They have made far more significant contributions than is generally acknowledged. And, at times, they have made some really, really fine music.
As for the second point, I actually do view this book as a work of church history. I doubt it will ever get catalogued in that section of any library, but it should. The whole phenomenon that has given birth to an identifiable Christian music subculture/industry/empire is noteworthy. I think it is one of the more intriguing aspects of late-twentieth-century American Christianity, and yet it remains largely unexamined. About five years ago, I wandered into a large Christian bookstore and was struck by the fact that almost a quarter of the floor space was given to music (cassettes/CDs/etc.). Intrigued, I asked the manager where their books on contemporary Christian music were. Books? I thought there would be a section, or a shelf. No. Not a single volume. My professional instincts as a scholar were arousedóif this stuff is so big, why isnít anyone writing about it? Of course, there are testimony type books sometimes written by the artists themselves, but why arenít the churchís theological leaders more invested in what seems to have captured the attention of its people?
Ah, now we hit upon what really draws me to this subject, more so even than the points above. I think what clinched it for me was a letter from the head of one of this countryís largest theological publishing companies. I had suggested a book on the phenomenon of contemporary Christian music (not necessarily to be written by me) and submitted a summary and outline of what such a volume could entail. In his reply, he indicated this seemed a waste of theological time and talent, and said, ďFrankly, I do not understand how you can think that people like Amy Grant and Andrať Crouch are so important when I have never even heard of them.Ē Well, hereís my response to that: first, it is somewhat shocking that a major religious publishing house can be run by someone so out of touch as to have never even heard the names of two such prominent religious figures. But, second, it is simply astonishing that such a person would assume something cannot possibly be important if she or he does not know about it.
I hate that kind of elitism. I regard the persons in this book as amateur theologians whose perspectives and insights on life and faith are every bit as valid as those of any Harvard professor or Rhodes scholar. That, I hope they realize, is why I approach their work in a critical vein. It is because I take them seriously. These are real people, attempting to articulate their experiences in the church and in the world, often with a vulnerability that scholars are trained to conceal. They offer no feigned neutrality, no illusion of dispassionate inquiry. And it does not bother me that these poets lack the proper nuances of reflection or expression taught within the guild. Jesus was a carpenter, and Peter, a fisherman. Only Paul was a scholar, and he is generally the most boring of the three.
I write as an outsider, with whatever benefits and deficits that brings. I donít actually know any of the people mentioned in this book. I am not part of the contemporary Christian music academy in any explicit way. Iíve approached the book as a theologically-informed researcher and reporteróas a journalist, really. The folks at CCM and HM magazines were kind enough to open their libraries to me and to allow me access to a wealth of materials. Erick Nelson and Doug Van Pelt read portions of the manuscript and offered valuable corrections and comments. Most of all, Hendrickson Publishers deserves the praise of both church and society for having the insight to believe in a costly project like this and the commitment to see it through. To personify that acknowledgment, Shirley Decker-Lucke is really the one who got the job done. She is an excellent editor and just seems to be a good person. Oh, and of course I should thank the good people at Trinity Lutheran Seminary who granted me the sabbatical and who do in fact support and even encourage my unconventional instinctsóapparently out of a strong faith that God will ultimately keep me in line and bring something useful out of the odd meanderings.
Why write a book like this? Because when people do splendid things, their deeds ought to be remembered. And, sometimes, when people do ridiculous things, those things should be remembered as well. The categories are not mutually exclusive, of course, and there is plenty of the splendid and the ridiculous in the pages that follow. So, this book is my tribute to some people I donít know who have made life more meaningful and more pleasant for me. A lot of people could have done it better than I, but I did the best I could and here it is. Everyone I know thinks this was some kind of fluke or midlife prove-youíre-still-hip project for me, and they hope I will get back to doing something respectable soon. Hmmm. . . . Well, no doubt it was what they suspect, but I still regard it as the most important thing Iíve ever done. Iíve waited sixteen books to dedicate a volume to the most important person in my life, hoping Iíd produce one worthy of the inscription. This isnít quite that, but Iím getting older and I figure itís the best Iíll ever do. So I dedicate this volume to my wife, Melissa, for whom my love and devotion is overwhelming, if not idolatrous. Itís just you and Jesus, dear: with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my mindóforever.
(C) 2002 Mark Allan Powell. All rights reserved.