In a previous column I talked about the lack of God in our society as one of the possible causes of violence in America, specifically gun violence.
Case in point. When I grew up there was not a special radio station for Christian music like 99.1 Joy FM. Maybe because it wasn’t needed. In the free love 60s and 70s many of the top recording artists included God and spirituality in their music.
Some of the songs you may remember — if you were born before 1968 — some you would only know if you are a big fan of the specific artist.
Here are some you probably know.
The Doobie Brothers had simple lyrics in 1972 with their top 40 hit Jesus Is Just Alright.
Norman Greenbaum is best known for writing and performing the 1969 song Spirit in the Sky: Prepare yourself you know it’s a must / Gotta have a friend in Jesus / So you know that when you die / He’s gonna recommend you / To the spirit in the sky. Interesting note, Greenbaum is Jewish. He used “Jesus” because he thought it would be more marketable. Turns out he was right.
Released in 1966 everyone should remember California Dreamin by The Mamas and the Papas: Stopped into a church / I passed along the way / Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees) / And I pretend to pray.
Even Brewer And Shipley’s hit One toke over the line — a song about marijuana — mentions Jesus and his mother Mary.
1971 was the year Day by Day, a folk rock ballad from the musical Godspell was released: Day by day / Day by day / Oh, Dear Lord / Three things I pray / To see thee more clearly / Love thee more dearly / Follow thee more nearly / Day by day.
American Pie — the song not the movie — written and sung by Don McLean ends with: And the three men I admire most / The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost / They caught the last train for the coast / The day the music died.
The Beatles’ song Let It Be, from 1970 relates to those of us who are Catholic: When I find myself in times of trouble / Mother Mary comes to me / Speaking words of wisdom, let it be / And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me / Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
But writers and performers who sang folk songs from the 60s and early 70s were not the only musicians who included God.
Would you believe that ZZ Top, Queen, Styx, Aerosmith and even the group Black Sabbath also recognized God and heaven?
The second track on ZZ Top’s third album, Tres Hombres, is entitled Jesus Just Left Chicago. It’s not what you would call a spiritual song, many of these are not, but by including the divine in their songs these musicians in a way bear witness to God.
The rock group Queen had a song entitled Jesus in 1973: And then I saw Him in the crowd / A lot of people had gathered round Him / The beggars shouted the lepers called Him / The old man said nothing / He just stared about him / All going down to see the Lord Jesus.
Styx talks about prayer in their song Show Me The Way: Every night I say a prayer / In the hopes that there’s a Heaven.
Aerosmith references the Lord in their hit single Dream On: Yeah, sing with me, sing for the year / Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear / Sing with me, just for today / Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away.
In 1971, Black Sabbath — pioneers of heavy metal music released the song After Forever. The lyrics will surprise you: Could it be you’re afraid of what your friends might say / If they knew you believe in God above? / They should realize before they criticize / that God is the only way to love.
The 70s even had a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice — Jesus Christ Superstar.
Of course Country and Western musicians have always included God in their music, then and now.
Do today’s top contemporary artists mention God in their music? On a list I found on the internet entitled “125 Pop, Rock and Country Songs About God, Faith, and Church” most of the songs are from the 1965 to 2005. Anything on the list after 2005 is most likely a Country and Western tune.
Here is the point I am trying to make — Jesus and God were part of everyday life growing up in America in the 70s. Even in school. Now God has been relegated to a certain area of society in order not to offend some people.