Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Secular Music at the Jesus House

I know, I promised an entry about our retreats. That one is on the way, but I decided to include this one first. One of the purposes of the House was to provide a place for Christian musicians to play Christian music. Much of it was evangelistic in nature and most of the music was original. In the early days, there were people who performed secular songs but changed the lyrics to reflect a Christian message. (He's a bridge over troubled waters...) Randy Matthews, who founded the House, really hated that so we urged artists to discontinue the practice. Only once do I remember someone doing it and making it really fun. A student from Miami University in Oxford changed the lyrics to a Beatle song and we were treated to "He loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah." It was so absurd it was fun.

Over the years, though, there were secular songs included in various artist's sets. Some were songs with solid Christian messages already in the lyrics, some had borderline spiritual messages and some had no spiritual content but were fun anyway.

The secular song performed by the most artists was Mighty Clouds of Joy. It was originally recorded by B.J. Thomas in 1971, post-Raindrops but pre-Christian, pre-Country hit making days. Mike Wilshire was the first to sing it at the Jesus House in fall of 1971. After Mike, Marc O'Hara performed it, then Terry Fisher, then Deny Brigance in, I believe, the Stephens-Brigance days.

The song most surprising for the fewest performances was Jesus is Just Alright With Me. Originally recorded by The Birds then covered by The Doobie Brothers, it seemed like a natural song for JH performers, and is one of my favorites but, alas, unless my memory is faulty, it was performed only once by a band featuring Bruce Kercher while he was still a college student.

A song I always expected but never heard was Presence of the Lord by Eric Clapton from Blind Faith. Clapton was represented once though by two guys from College Hill Presbyterian Church, a drummer & bass player and performed a really long, really loud instrumental version of Sunshine of Your Love. I think they justified it by saying they spelled sunshine with an "o" instead of the "u."

During the first year of operation, James Taylor music was big with You've Got a Friend and Fire & Rain. Also that first year, quite a few people sang He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (and always told the story involving the priest and the two orphans) and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. One of the big worship songs that first year was a rewritten version of the 1958 Phil Specter tune, "To Know Him is to Love Him." Of course we know who the "him" was for us! And yes, we seriously sang it as a worship song. Stop looking at me that way. Please wipe that smurk off your face. All we had otherwise was Kum By Yah.

As the years progressed we saw other Paul Simon compositions added. Besides Bridge Over Troubled Waters we heard Loves Me Like a Rock and some song about cereal(?).

The Eagles showed up occasionally with Desperado and once with a re-written version of Already Gone.

It was a memorable night when a group from Georgetown College sang re-worked Bee Gee songs. Pre-disco Bee Gees, like To Love Somebody and Got to Get a Message to You.

The Paul & Dave Band used to perform, "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long" by Chicago and something by the Beatles but the title is escaping me right now. I'll remember it later and edit this section. The Beatles were also represented the night John Gould sang, "Here Comes the Sun."

As far as songs with absolutely no spiritual content, Stephens-Brigance sang Rock & Roll Music and I sang Up On the Roof, Midnight Hour & Mustang Sally!

Finally, let me say that no one ever sang a Beach Boys song...

If I've left out songs, let me know and I'll add them!

This Week in History: Artists Who Performed the Second Weekend of February
1972 - Grant & Jane Ann Hammond
1973 - John Gould
1974 - Lisa Gosnell & Dave Keith (this was a French Lick Weekend!)
1975 - Marc O'Hara, Mark Elliott from the One Way House in Springfield speaking. (The staff was gone on another French Lick Weekend!)
1976 - Scruggs (one set) Ross Johnson (one set)
1977 - Not sure, no one is listed. It was another French Lick Weekend.
1978 - Kent & Randy
1979 - Hymn (Yet another French Lick Weekend)
1980 - Godshadows
1981 - Brent Eresman
1982 - Geoff Thurman
1983 - Forerunner


Christopher said...

Seems to me I recall you working up a Beach Boys Christmas tune and I'm pretty sure we played it on a Saturday night

revfish said...

A Beach Boys Christmas Tune? Now you're just playing with my head!