“If you find a place like that, I’ll go there, too”

March 28, 2011

When I was a freshman in college in 1988, I discovered Keith Green by way of a compilation from Sparrow Records called The Ministry Years, Vol. 1: 1977-1979. It formed—alongside Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home—the soundtrack for that particular year of my life. Lest you think that Dylan and Green shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence, please note that Dylan himself, in the throes of his recent conversion to Christianity, played harmonica on a Green song called “Pledge My Head to Heaven.”

In fact, according to a new book by Michael Gilmour entitled The Gospel According to Bob Dylan, a scholarly analysis of religion in Dylan’s music, Dylan and Keith and Melody Green struck up a friendship. To the surprise of the Greens themselves, Dylan even asked them, over dinner one night, to review and assess the lyrical content of the songs that would make up Dylan’s soon-to-be-released gospel album, Slow Train Coming.

Regardless, song for song, Ministry Years, Vol. 1 would have to rank as one of the best albums in my entire music collection. I’ve complained elsewhere that the music of early Christian rock—mostly long out of print and unknown even to Christians who listen to CCM today—is in danger of being lost to history. This is a real shame.

One philosophical difference between Christian rock then and Christian rock today, as you might sense from the video below, is that the songs weren’t simply preaching to the choir. They were often directed to non-churchgoers and spoke to broader social concerns, especially compared to the happy-clappy Christian music of today. In a way, early Christian rock is a form of protest music, spiritually akin to folk-rock of ’60s or even punk in the ’70s.

If you don’t know anything about the music, you may as well start with Ministry Years. There is also a Vol. 2, which covers Green from ’80 through ’82, the year he died in a plane crash, but that collection left me cold. I haven’t heard it in years, so I can’t say exactly why. I remember that, musically, it was much softer, more ballad-heavy. Its themes were more generic, its tone preachier. Still, I think I was mostly disappointed that it didn’t measure up to Vol. 1—but what album could?

The following is one of my favorite Green songs. Yes, there is a strong vocal and musical resemblance to Elton John. (This was the ’70s after all, and Green was a piano player.) And, no, I’m not commenting on the aesthetic quality of the video itself. Just listen to the song! (Stupid copyright laws! EMI won’t let us watch the video outside of YouTube. Click on the video below, and you’ll be directed to it—or just click here.)

Here’s my favorite verse:

Oh, I came running when I got the news that you were crying
Oh, my friend has life been so unkind to you?
You say you want to find a place where people are not lying
If you find a place like that, I’ll go there, too!

2 Responses to ““If you find a place like that, I’ll go there, too””

  1. Thanks for the reminder of Keith Green. He was very formative in my early Christian years, even though I only learned about him through his death. His lyrics definitely had an honesty that others struggle to reach. He would gladly sacrifice a rhyme (though he rarely had to) to get his message across. His integrity and directness made his music very powerful, at least to a teenaged me.

  2. Jane Rogers Says:

    From my era it is Paul Simon! He’s got a new album coming out. Saw this video entitled, “Afterlife”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVTlueB-ReI

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