That's what a friend of mine told me this week. It is hard to get out of Hollywood and it's hard to get Hollywood out of you, once it's there. Another friend told me last week, "Nashville has changed more people than people have changed Nashville." Those cities have the ability to devour Christians (and families) alive, but Christians should be able to thrive in these environments, especially seeing whereas they played a major role in creating the present expressions of pop culture.
"You let loose, the piano was talking, the drums walking. People were shouting all over the place. And if you didn't understand what it was, you thought you were in a rock and roll concert. That's the way the black Gospel was when I was a boy.
We called the church the sanctified church. He sings, 'I'm so glad Jesus set em free, I'm so glad Jesus set me free, singing Glory, Hallelujah, Jesus set me free!
Then they had that holler (he hollers) You know I loved that Woooo... they were just screaming, I said 'My Lord.' It made my big toe shoot up in my boot!" That's how Little Richard, born in 1932 and one of the originators of rock and roll described the church services of his youth.
Quincy Jones, who has been nominated for 25 Grammy awards and the producer of Thriller, the best selling album ever had this to say about the origins of rock and roll, "You're talking about music that was bred in Africa to the Black Church and over to Gospel, which turned into blues and jazz and country music. And it cross pollinates and that's the way it ought to be. That's how it started."
The music today we know as rock and roll, rhythm and blues and soul find their origin in the music of the church. Everybody knows it, even those with no apparent connection to the church or Gospel music. Tom Petty speaking of the roots of rock and roll said, "You know rhythm and blues was a big part of it, but then you start mixing in the country, the good country, really swinging country and Gospel, can't forget Gospel."
So many in popular music started in the church and had the roots of their music based in the church including Whitney Houston, who was raised a Baptist, but had some exposure to the Pentecostal church as well. When she was a young girl she was a soloist in the Jr Gospel Choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. Her godmother is Aretha Franklin, another great and influential artist with her roots and beginning in the church. Although the church birthed the genres and became the platform for so many young and new artists, it seemed like the church was not able to keep them, and for many they were not able to stand the wiles of the world on their own.
Names of great and influential artists that started in the church and had the church as their early influences include James Brown, the godfather of soul and the hardest working man in show business. James Brown started in 1955 with Bobby Byrd's group The Gospel Starlighters. Dionne Warwick grew up in the church, her father was a promoter of Gospel singing groups. She originally sang Gospel including at an early performance at the Apollo Theater.
Curtis Mayfield, author of "People Get Ready" and later "Superfly" had his start and early influence from the church. He began singing in church when he was 10 and started a band called the Impressions with fellow church members that had a series of hits including the song "Amen" which the Impressions sang at his funeral in January of 2000.
A whole host of early rock artists had their start and influence from the music of the church. Jerry Lee Lewis grew up learning to play the piano with his cousins Mickey Gilley and evangelist Jimmy Swaggert. Jerry Lee attended an Assembly of God school where his mother was sure all he ever would do was sing songs for the Lord.
Elvis Presley, the best selling artist of all time had his start in the Assembly of God church and never forgot his roots, although he struggled immensely between the worlds.
The list goes on and on... we'll cover some more and talk about their lives in future posts.
The big question is why can't the church hold on to her children? Is it that there is a hostile relationship between the entertainment industries and the church? Is it that there is no agreement, only distance between the church and the entertainment industry? Are all entertainers doomed to living without a church to attend or to be part of? Let it rip!