Christian music has come a long way from the church-sanctioned melancholy chants of centuries gone by. It has rich history going back several hundred years. In fact, the earliest music manuscripts were of church origin.
When the separation of church and state began, secular music emerged in full force. Some people mistakenly believe that so-called “Christian” music died with this new era. In truth, the church’s loosened grip on music actually led to more diversified styles in Christian music.
Musician Larry Norman was considered a pioneer of Christian rock music. In fact, many still refer to him as “the father of Christian rock.” (Later in his life, the aging musician was tagged with the new tongue-in-cheek title: “Grandfather of Christian rock.”) Norman’s music may have been the anti-Gregorian chant, a fact that made him a criticized figure among his fellow Christians.
Still, Norman managed to gain an astounding following that hasn’t waned despite his recent death of heart failure. His musical talent is undeniable. Those stolid church leaders who would condemn his style needed only to listen to Norman’s songs. His faith in God was unquestionable.
Norman’s artistry flung open the door to Christian rock, as well as other popular music styles. Hip hop, dance, punk, metal, blues and pop-style music has been put to sacred words and ideas since.
Some on the outside of the Christian music scene criticize it all as un-original, carbon copies of secular music. However, a true study of Christian music and its history reveals that Christian musicians have been trend setters. Christian musician Phil Keaggy is regarded as possibly the world’s best guitarist. Even the legendary Jimi Hendrix was known to acknowledge Keaggy as a more worthy musician than himself.
Other artists have managed to make successful from crossovers from Christian to secular music. This seems to demonstrate that their talent transcends religion. Artists like Amy Grant generated fans in both the religious and the secular music industry. Gospel singer Kirk Franklin is another artist who made an impression in both the Christian and the secular market. His first album in 1993 went platinum. It stayed on the gospel chart for an astounding two years. What is perhaps more astounding is the fact that it charted on the R&B charts.
Today Franklin is a respected artist in many genres and circles. The band DC Talk broke new ground in the Christian music world in the 1980s and 90s. It began as a hip hop group, later evolving into a more pop-style group with rap influences. DC Talk managed to win respect in both worlds.
Today’s Christian music scene still burgeons with successful artists making names for themselves of their own rights. Michael W. Smith is a renowned singer, songwriter and three-time Grammy award winner. He has reinvented his career over the decades and is a noteworthy praise and worship leader and recording artist today. Bands like POD, Switchfoot, Relient K, Sixpence None the Richer and Lifehouse have proved that Christian artists can hold their own on the secular stage. Christian music and secular labels alike will undoubtedly continue to turn out high quality recordings from talented artists for many years.