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Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet: Jesus Music

by Wendy Lee Nentwig

Cheat Sheet: Jesus Music


Age is a funny thing. What's old to one person is relatively current to another. When it comes to tracing Christian music's roots, some fans look back only as far as DC Talk's groundbreaking Jesus Freak tour in the '90s or Amy Grant's Age to Age from the early '80s. Others only know recent artists and don't give any thought at all to those who came before. But there wouldn't be a Jars of Clay without Resurrection Band, a Derek Webb without Larry Norman or a Chris Tomlin without Keith Green. These early trailblazers were part of the Jesus Movement of the late '60s and early '70s, and CCM as we know it today wouldn't exist without them.

The Jesus Movement actually has its roots in the flower power of hippie culture. While many were tuning in, turning on and dropping out, others were finding God. These converted hippies hung on to the clothes, hairstyles and music of the counterculture as they headed to church, where the conservative believers wrinkled their noses and rolled their eyes.

Not everyone was unwelcoming, though. Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., was one of the first to open his doors wide. Barefoot and dirty, they flooded the aisles and sat on the floor. Smith was a buttoned-up type, so he befriended and mentored Lonnie Frisbee, who had been hitchhiking around the country to tell people about the love of Jesus. This pair influenced many of these newly named "Jesus Freaks," who absorbed Bible teaching like sponges, and soon the lessons they learned were set to music. In Southern California, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago new bands began springing up every day. Maranatha! Music would also grow out of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, giving us many of the praise choruses sung in churches in the '70s and '80s.