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Wendy Lee Nentwig

Extra! Extra! Newsboys Through the Years

by Wendy Lee Nentwig

Extra! Extra! Newsboys Through the Years

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To celebrate the release of Newsboys' 15th studio project, Born Again, we thought we'd take a look back at the Aussie band's storied history. During their quarter-century in existence they've sold more than 6.5 million units, recorded five gold albums, had 21 No. 1 songs, earned multiple Grammy nominations and Dove wins, performed jaw-dropping stage shows, launched their own label and tour, and experimented with multiple lineup changes. Through it all, they've made music that continues to light up the Christian charts and keep the faithful singing along.

The current lineup features a foursome Michael Tait, Jeff Frankenstein, Duncan Phillips and Jody Davis and Born Again is Tait's first studio project with the band. Not that he's a newbie. Any Christian music fan knows him from his days in the groundbreaking group DC Talk and his own band Tait. Of course, there are plenty of other names that have been associated with Newsboys through the years.

The band dates back to 1985 in Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia, wherebassist Sean Taylor, vocalist John James, drummer Peter Furler andguitarist George Perdikis formed a little band they called The News.The popularity of Huey Lewis and the News made the name confusing, though, so they were soon rechristened Newsboys. Two years later, the boys made the trek to the U.S., whereRefuge Records released their debut, the aptly named Read All About It, in 1988.

Newsboys followed with two releases on the StarSong label, including the in-your-face disc Hell Is for Wimps. A cover of the DeGarmo & Key track "Boycott Hell" on their 1992 album Not Ashamed finally garnered the band some notice and kicked off a partnership withquirky, satirical artist-turned-producer Steve Taylor, who continues towork with them. The lineup went though a few changes during thisperiod, too, with Davis joining in 1992 followed by Phillips in '93.

After nine years, Newsboys finally became the breakout stars they knew they were always destined to become. Their 1994 disc Going Public won the Dove Award for Rock Album of the Year and produced No. 1 hits including "Shine." In 1996, Take Me to Your Leader delivered three more No. 1 hits, including the festival favorite " Breakfast." It was a track that proved Newsboys weren't just like everyone else outthere. After all, who else could combine Cap'n Crunch and eternaldamnation into a fun sing-along song?

Despite all that success, more change was just around the corner.Longtime frontman John James left the band in 1997 due to some personalissues, forcing Furler to step out from behind his drum kit and take onlead vocals, while other lineup changes led to the addition ofFrankenstein and Phil Joel. Step Up to the Microphone proved the new lineup had staying power and earned the band another Dove Award, this time for Short Form Music Video for "Entertaining Angels."

Always eager to innovate, Newsboys released their own movie in 1996 ( Newsboys Down Under the Big Top) and strayed from their pop-rock sound with 1999's [Love Liberty Disco],which found Furler decked out in a white leisure suit. That same year,Furler cofounded his own label, Inpop Records. As if that weren'tenough to keep the 'Boys busy, they launched their own festival in2000. Festival Con Dios was a trippy, tented traveling fest thatfeatured Audio Adrenaline, O.C. Supertones and plenty of family fun. Tragedy struck that same year when former bandmate Kevin Mills, who played with the 'Boys from 1992-'96, died in a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles, where he had been working as abartender.

It seemed like a good idea to finally release a greatest-hits project,buying the band some time to focus on a tour. Eventually, Newsboysheaded back into the studio to deliver [Thrive] in 2002. They followed that up with two worship discs in two years, andbid farewell to Davis during that period. They also took to the highseas, contributing to the soundtrack of 2002's animated Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie.

Bryan Oleson (Casting Pearls) filled Davis' shoes for a while, followed by the Paul Colman Trio's own Paul Colman. The band's 2006 release, [Go],had an international missions focus. Apparently, Joel took the album'stitle literally and left to pursue a solo career. Colman followed suit,and Davis took the opportunity to return after five years away, whileFurler decided to step back into more of a supporting role (it's timeslike these when a flow chart would be helpful!). He would continue towrite and produce for the band, but his boldly bald head would nolonger be the first thing you saw onstage at a Newsboys show. It wasthe end of an era.

Newsboys are nothing if not resilient, though. In 2009, Tait was named the band's new lead singer. He toured in support of In the Hands of God,a project he didn't appear on. Furler made a few special appearances tohelp ease the transition, then in late 2009 he officially handed overthe reins, marking the beginning of the band's next chapter. Stillgoing strong 25 years later, Newsboys have now released theappropriately titled Born Again. While not Biblically accurate, it doesn't seem wrong to suggest this band just might have nine lives.