Driving in the car with my parents listening to songs from The Beatles to Dylan and even some Motown thrown in because my Mom liked to dance.
I grew up listening to Christian music.
Driving in the car with my parents listening to songs from Michael W. Smith to Petra and even some Amy Grant thrown in too, because even her "crossover stuff" sounded pretty Christian.
Thus lies the frustration of many Christians growing up in the 80s and 90s.
Music was not based on style, it was based on what radio station it was played on.
If you were like me, maybe you have thrown out some CDs and probably bought back a couple of the same CDs, or downloaded them. (I seriously think that is how record companies made there money in the 90s from Christian kids buying back albums).
If you are Christian it didn't matter if it was good music or bad music. Christian music was the only thing you could play on your Walkman (ask your Dad what that is).
Whether it was the music they sold in Christian bookstores or the music they played in church that was it. If you didn't like it, you were to watch "Hells Bells" (yes this is for real) and forced to sit in the back of the youth van with the smelly kid.
There was Secular Music and there was Christian Music and there was no debate.
I think Rob Bell is on to something when he said "Christian' makes a poor adjective."
Why can't music be just music.
Based on truth and excellence.
One of my favorite quotes is by Author Holmes who said, "All truth is God's truth."
So couldn't music if it had truth, honesty, brokenness, redemption, love, (sounds like Psalms of David to me) and rising guitar solos and soaring vocals be Worship.
Could Non-Worship (secular) Songs be Worship?
It makes me think of the movie Sister-Act because the whole movie was based on this concept of taking "Secular Songs" and making them "Worship Songs."
Whoopie took a dead empty church into a lively packed church because of music being a bridge. (check out the clip from movie here)
Maybe Whoopie was on to something... (kind of scary to think, I know).
So Here are 50 Songs (because it started with 10 and turned in 50) that I could hear being played in church or on an iPod.
Songs 50 - 25 (Some songs could be open to debate but you got to start somewhere)
50. Arms Wide Open: Creed: One of the best New Years I ever had was when my brother and I saw creed (yeah I don't know if that says much of my New Years experiences). It was one of their last live shows. And we truely felt like we were in a worship service. And don't hate you know have a Creed song or two on your iPod (commence Christ pose now).
49. Landslide: Smashing Pumpkins: Fleetwood Mac originally did this song, but this version has special meaning for me. Check out a previous blog of mine for the story behind the song.
48. Come As You Are: Nirvana: Simple and complex would describe Curt's lyrics but this idea of coming as you are would be welcomed idea in many churches for sure.
47. Pocket Full of Sunshine: Natasha Bedingfield: She originally got her start with Hillsong London church; those roots go down deep. I saw Natasha perform this song on American Idol one year and it was pretty moving, so we did it in our youth group and students loved it.
46. Dead and Gone: T.I. & Justin Timberlake: T.I. wrote this song after he got out prison and if this is not a song about repentance and redemption I don't know what it is. This song is honest and stirs me. "So I turn my head to the north, swallow that pill that they call pride, That old me's dead and gone but the new me will be alright."
45. Him: Lily Allen: This is actually a song about God. I love to hear songs from people who are wrestling with what they believe. She asks alot of interesting questions in the song, but this is my favorite line, "I don't imagine he's ever been suicidal His favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival."
44. 3am: MatchboxTwenty: I listened to this song a lot in high school. I don't know if it was the opening acoustic guitar lick or the fact that it played on the radio all time. I later found out the song was about his mom who had cancer. I think some of the most spiritual moments come from the most broken moments.
43. Better Life: Keith Urban: I am not a fan of country music, but I like Keith Urban. Hey he is an Aussie, so he gets a pass. He has written much more spiritual stuff than this, but I love this song because it reminds me of my first year of marriage. It gave me faith during the tough trials my wife and I faced.
42. Snowed Under: Keane: This band means so much to my wife and I. You can read the blog why. The lyrics speak of hopes and fears and looking at things from a positive perspective and getting over your hurts. That can preach.
41. Under the Bridge: Red Hot Chili Peppers: Is this a song about drugs? Yes. Is there something more to this song than drugs? Yes. Anthony Kiedis has always wrestled with his demons but also had a soul that was searching, I'd love to have coffee and conversation with a guy like this. "It's hard to believe that there is nobody out there, it's hard to believe that I'm all alone."
40. Porcelain: Moby: This song has few lyrics, but my soul is lifted by the beautiful arrangement. It is sad and and uplifting at the same time. I like that delicate balance, maybe that's why it's entitled Porcelain.
39. What I've Done: Linkin Park: I guess you could call this Linkin Park's "U2 phase." They had the same producer on this song, and in the video Chester was doing his best Bono impression. That being said, this is a great song about confession and repentance. We also did this song in our youth group, and it always made an impact, plus the drum lick is sick. Love the line, "Let mercy come and wash away what I've done."
38. Are You Gonna Go My Way: Lenny Kravitz: The opening guitar pulls you in and never lets go and would definitely get Sister Christian to dance in her pew. Heavily influence by the sounds of the 70s and it comes thru strong here. It is clear that Lenny loves Hendrix and both of them love women...and Jesus. "We must engage and rearrange/ And turn this planet back to one."
37. Fake Plastic Trees: Radiohead: Let's be honest this song can be about the gloss and legalism that can bind the church juxtapose with the fake and gloss of the world and relationships. This song reminds me of the importance of being real.
36. Kings and Queens: 30 Seconds to Mars: Jared Letto and boys did something really interesting with this song and the album This Is War (didn't Petra have album with that title). They recorded the voices of their fans to sing over parts of the songs throughout the album. What you got was a album that sounded very much like a Hillsong worship album. Move Along by All American Rejects has a similar approach as well and could easily be in this slot too.
35. I'll Stand By You: The Pretenders: Chrissie Hynde wrote a moving love song that is full of emotion and has lyrics that anyone in love could relate. The line, "nothing you confess can make me love you less." To me that is what the cross is all about.
34. The Cave: Mumford & Sons: These lads from across the pond wrote an album in Sigh No More that is full of hope and religious imagery, with lyrics like "I will find strength in pain, and I will hold on hope/ You can understand dependence when you see the Makers hand."
33. Time of Your Life: Green Day: This song was everywhere in 1998. It was the swan song for Seinfield and it was a breakup song that wasn't a breakup song. It is simple with strings and acoustic guitar, "it's something unpredictable but in the end is right." I think that is a pretty good way to look this Christian life.
32. Chasing Cars: Snow Patrol: I don't know what it is about Brit-Pop that makes for such moving music, but here is another song from the UK. The soaring chorus into the build at the bridge would be the template for many Worship songs of the decade. "Those three words I said to much but not enough," I think is the lyrical equivalent of what Paul said in Romans 8.
31. Omaha: Counting Crows: This band is known as much for Adam Duritz voice as for his dreads (whether they are real or fake remains to be seen). However, this album, especially this song, is loaded with spiritual imagery in a melancholy-hopeful kind of way, and I kind of like that.
30. Who Will Save Your Soul: Jewel: The title says it all, but Jewel said this song was crafted over years on the road from traveling and sleeping in a van. Her voice is perfect and broken as she strums her guitar and asks a question that many pastors seem to leave out of their sermons.
29. Message in a Bottle: The Police: A three piece band that was full of drama, but also full of great pop songs. There are a number of songs that Sting wrote that could fit into this category especially "Every Breath You Take," but I like the simple, hopeful, almost evangelistic tone to the song. It also rocks on Guitar Hero!
28. Time After Time: Cindy Loper: An 80s wild child of sorts (think Katy Perry minus the um, whip cream), but it was her softer side that came through in this song. Later it would be modernized by a one hit wonder band of the new millennium, Quietdrive. The words to this song are full of grace and redemption, "If you're lost, you can look and you will find me, Time after time If you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting, Time after time." This is a song that stands outside of time and is always relevant to our lives.
27. Love Story: Taylor Swift: Yes, I know this probably where the list hits zenith for the ultimate cheese factor. That being said, this is a brilliant pop song about love, so brilliant, it can have a Song of Solomn aspect to it. It could be a song about a Romeo it can be a song about a Romeo named Jesus. "Romeo save me, they're trying to tell me how to feel/This love is difficult, but it's real."
26. Starlight: Muse: If there is one word to describe Muse's music it would be glorious. The arrangements, the mix of classical, and vocal harmonies, takes you places without ever leaving your living room. Also their music is a bit apocalyptic and Christians always dig the apocalypse.
Songs 25-1 (Some of these songs are open to no debate)
25. Changes: 2Pac: With a sampling from Bruce Hornsbey's That's Just the Way It Is, 2Pac lyrics are like that of an urban poet, and sometimes prophet. It's erie to hear the foreshadowing in this song from his death to a Black President. His words are spiritual, raw, and honest. "We gotta make a change...It's time for us as a people to start makin' some changes.Let's change the way we eat, let's change the way we live and let's change the way we treat each other."
24. Bridge Over Troubled Water: Simon & Garfunkel: The picture that the song paints is one that I like to think my savior, Jesus, is like. I remember facing some difficult circumstances in college and this song came on the radio and I literally just sobbed; it was as if their words were Jesus' words. "When you're weary, feeling small,When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;I'm on your side. When times get rough And friends just can't be found, Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down."
23. Don't Look Back in Anger: Oasis: They were not The Beatles although on this song, they sound pretty close to it. This song is all about forgiveness and moving on; about not looking back. Something Lot's wife should've done. When I think about the people who maybe got one over on me, I just play this song.
22. Shine: Collective Soul: Lost in the shuffle during the 90s and falling in between the cracks of Nirvana and Pearl Jam you had this jewel of a band from Atlanta (or Hotlanta as the kids say). Their music was always catchy, well crafted, and full of spiritual imagery. If This Little Light of Mine, was for sunday school, Shine was a song begging to be played across youth groups in the 90s (Yeah!).
21. The Adventure: Angels & Airwaves: This is Blink-182 (minus Travis and the other dude) all grown up and wanting to be taking seriously, or as seriously as U2. The guitar in this song is pure joy, and the lyrics are meaningful and empowering. "Any type of love - it will be shown, like every single tree reach for the sky. If you're gonna fall, I'll let you know, that I will pick you up."
20. Jesus Walks: Kanye West: I will never forget working at the mall during my college days (for one reason or another) my boss was atheist but he loved this song. He was so excited to play this for me because he knew I was Christian and thought I would like it. Only music can do that. "I'm just trying to say the way school need teachers, The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that's the way I need Jesus." Best rap line ever.
19. Lightening Crashes: Live: Can a song that mentions the placenta be meaningful? Yes. Everyone had this album and played it the summer of 1995. The song is about how death and life can come at the same time. We didn't always know what Ed Kowalczyk was talking about but we knew it was something spiritual.
18. Alive: Pearl Jam: Sometimes I think just the way a song is arranged can have just as much spiritual impact. The quiet-soft verses opening into anthemic soaring chorus would be the template for worship in the years to come. The lyrics could be about a broken family life or a broken love life, but the chorus is says it all, "I'm Still Alive, OH I'm still alive..." The lyrical equivalent of Jesus words "In this world you will have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world."
17. Use Somebody: Kings of Leon: It is no accident that sons of a preacher would have a song like this. The album Only By Night would be a welcomed departure for new fans with arena rock melodies, but for the hard-core fans of KOL this was a sudden change. I actually heard this song played in a church recently, and it seemed to fit into the worship flow seamlessly.
16. You Raise Me Up: Josh Groban: I don't know if it is the subtle use of bag-pipes throughout the song that reminds me of Braveheart (thus having youth pastors across the country raise their William Wallace sword in their office like warrior poets). The song does just as the title suggests raise you up. Plus it played at my wedding during the ceremony and I almost yelled "FREEEEDOM!" at the close.
15. Bittersweet Symphony: The Verve: It is not an accident that the title to the album on which this song made a hit was titled Urban Hymns. The song talks about the evils of money, and the brevity of life. The lyric, "Well I never pray But tonight I'm on my knees yeah
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me" reminds me of C.S. Lewis' words "God whispers in our pleasures but shouts in our pains."
14. God Only Knows: The Beach Boys: Songs by this ultimate American band would be characterized by summer, cars, and girls. However, on Pet Sounds, they boys of summer take a turn from the outside to look on the inside. This song and album was ahead of its time of how arrangement, production, and introspective lyrics could affect one's soul and 3 minute pop song.
13. I Walk the Line: Johnny Cash: The man in black was as much as a rebel as he was a man of spiritual integrity. He was always honest about his struggles and was good friends with Bill Graham, so that definitely assures entry pass St. Peter and the pearly gates. This song was written about his love for his wife on the road, but also can translate toward our love for Christ on our own road. Also check out Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails Hurt it is haunting and moving.
12. Rebellion Lies: Arcade Fire: If you could put a beat to the book of Lamentations this is what you would get. The bands style and approach is almost too important for the label of Indie-Rock. The songs unfold on this album like curtain being drawn on a stage of love and loss; faith and despair. If I could I would put the whole album on the list, but Rebellion... is the climax to the the album Funeral, plus it makes my wife cry.
11. One Love: Bob Marley: When you think of Reggae you think of one name, Bob Marley. Who was a voice of hope and inspiration for his homeland Jamaica. There is a beautiful balance of love and judgement that comes thru in this song as he talks about "a Holy Armageddon" but in the same breathe shares about "giving thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright."
10. Hallelujah: Jeff Buckley: Originally written by Leonard Cohen, however, it is this version that leaves me speechless. Buckley's voice is unmatched and his tenderness and tone to which he croons thru the song tells a story as much as the lyrics. There is biblical imagery throughout the song of King David and Sampson of mercy and grace as well as failure and faith. Sometimes the only thing we can say is Hallelujah.
9. In Your Eyes: Peter Gabriel: Raise your hands or raise your stereos it a powerful moment. This song made Say Anything, more than chick that John Cusack was pining for. The chorus could be played in almost any church, and the old timers would still get goose bumps.
8. Don't Stop Believing: Journey: This song can go hand and hand with More Than A Feeling, by Boston, but Glee's revival of the song took it over the top. There is something magical about Steve Perry's voice (as well as those awesome four chords that find their way into many pop songs) that would make any worship pastor jealous. No matter what kind of day you have, as soon as you hear the chorus you will be singing and believing.
7. Living On a Prayer: Bon Jovi: How can you not like Bon Jovi. He has an awesome voice, awesome hair, and he is pretty awesome guy (even if is from New Jersey). The message in this song is universal, we all can relate to Tommy and Gina. It's hard to have faith at times, even harder to hit some of the high notes that Bon Jovi hits. Sometimes it really is all about a well timed key change.
6. Fix You: Coldplay: The lyrics may be a bit predictable and cliche, but its ok, because its Coldplay and we love Coldplay. We all want our lives to be fixed. We all want that sense that in the end its going to be ok. That there is a moral to the story and a lesson to be learned, even if we don't hear a driving guitar solo in the background, everybody wants hope. Chris Martin sends this message in spades.
5. What's Going On: Marvin Gaye: It possibly one of the most important pop songs ever written and recorded, and it almost did not make it onto Marvin Gaye's 1970 album of the same name. Berry Gordy (the producer of Motown) felt it was uncommercial. You can almost hear Jesus saying these words, "For only love can conquer hate," He was always asking the Pharisees "What's Goin On?"
4. Where the Streets Have No Name: U2: This song is heaven in 4 minutes. The opening of a soft organ to The Edge's iconic guitar echo, into Bono's crooning vibrato. This was the I Am Free of the 80s. It was never played under a steeple. but at every concert these four Irishmen had church. This is the band/song that will be the model for what worship will become over the next twenty years.
3. The Times They Are A Changing: Bob Dylan: Where would this country be if it wasn't for Bob. He was the voice of a generation and for many to come. "The line it is drawn/The curse it is cast/ The slow one now/Will later be fast." Dylan had many songs with biblical imagery even before his time in the 70s that produced three albums influenced by his faith in Jesus. I love the simplicity and truth of this song. It is a proverb. It is prophetic. It is timeless.
2. You Can't Get What You Want: The Rolling Stones: There is better theology in this song than in many sermons I've heard over the years. This song was definitely had a gospel influence in the production. An original approach for the Stones although, released after Hey Jude. Jagger and Richards always seem to follow Lennon and McCartney's heals, and they do on this list as well.
1. Let It Be: The Beatles: The song is a prayer. The song is a confession. This is how The Beatles do gospel. Some of the best lyrics McCartney ever composed with an epic chord structure that rises and soars giving the listener hope and peace albeit whatever circumstance. This song has special significance for me, my Aunt passed away because of breast cancer my freshman year of college. One night my brother, her son, and myself were playing pool and this song came on the radio. Let it Be gave me peace, because truth is truth, and in these whispered words of wisdom, there is worship.
You may agree with some of the songs on this list.
You may disagree with some of the songs on this list.
I hope you may have thought some of the same things I shared on in this list. That even in cars, subways, or even pool-halls there was worship.
Keep the conversation going, let me know what songs you think should be on the list that I left out.