Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Keith Green - Gone But Not Forgotten

I bought myself a special gift a few weeks ago - it was a live concert on CD. When I was in High School and College a former hippie named Keith Green became a Christian. His unique approach to gospel music, his 'fro and his powerful lyrics made an impact on a generation. That CD took me way back.

Keith was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a schoolteacher father and a mother who used to sing with the Big Bands. His family moved to California, a short drive from Hollywood, and quickly became a part of the music scene. His music heritage went back to his grandfather who started Jaguar Records - the first rock and roll label. From the age of six Keith was playing piano and writing his own music.

Signed to a record deal by age 11, Keith was already disillusioned and feeling like a failure by 14. Like many of that era, he began to search for meaning and truth in all the wrong places. He was into eastern mysticism, drugs and free love. At 21, Keith and his new bride, Melody, found faith in Christ and everything changed in a hurry.

Keith took his music and began to use it to tell everyone about the God that he had discovered. The difference between Keith and other Christian artists was that he didn't bring his message to the church; he continued to sing at Bla-Bla Cafe, a coffeehouse in Los Angeles where every band that wanted to be discovered would play in the early '70's. Keith had played there during his search and now that he found the answer he wanted to share.

The response was less than unanimously enthusiastic. Keith was passionate about what he believed and his newly born again zeal combined with his imperfections made for a volatile combination. But Keith was nothing if not sincere. His life had been changed, and he knew it. He wanted to live what Jesus taught. His house became a place for people who wanted to get off the streets and get off drugs. He would hold Bible studies and try to help people in any way that he could. It was this kind of passion that showed through in his music and drew people to him. The following is an example of a song - a live version of "Make My Life A Prayer to You" from Estes Park in '78.

Keith went against the grain in a lot of different ways. He believed that God had given him the gift of music and that he had an obligation to share that gift with anyone and everyone. This lead him to not charge a set fee for his albums, people could give what they could afford, in many cases nothing. Hundreds of thousands of his albums have been given away. His concerts were also based on a free will offering for the same reason. They often resembled revival meetings, with Keith boldly challenging Christians to stop playing games and start following Christ. His message resonated with many of us who grew up in that era. Here's another example of the type of challenge his music represented:

Keith Green boarded a Cessna 414 in Texas on July 28, 1982, taking his 3 year old son Josiah and 2 year old daughter Bethany, along with other friends for a pleasure flight. The plane crashed and all 12 on board perished. His death sent shockwaves through the Christian music industry. What a tremendous loss. We can only speculate as to why he was taken so young and wonder what he would have accomplished if he had lived to old age. As it stands, I count at least 11 albums, with a number of them released after his death. Here is a link to a site with his complete Discography.

No Compromise, Compact Disc [CD]

His wife, Melody, has carried on the ministry which they both established - Last Days Ministries. My all-time favorite album cover is from his "No Compromise" album. It represented commitment for a me at a time when there were major choices to make in my life. His music helped me to make Christ the center of my life. Thanks Keith! See you on the other side. If you would like to read more about Keith I suggest you go to the bio on his official web-site. There's a great video on that site that I'll also share here.

Here's one final song that reflects Keith's heart, and hopefully mine as well.

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