Musicians often have hell to pay for playing rock and roll. They shoulder the blame for being in cahoots with the devil, and for glorifying him with secret messages supposedly hidden in their songs. If a berserk kid goes on a shooting spree, rock music must surely have possessed his soul. If a killer mentions he likes a certain band, their lyrics must definitely have cast a murderous spell over him. Heck, if your lottery numbers don’t hit, why not blame that on the songs of a rock band too?
Well, guess what? The good news is that there actually are rock bands who write songs about God. They’ve glorified him -- not the other dude -- in their tunes. Here are just a few of the numerous musicians who’ve written music and lyrics about how God has rocked their world:
George Harrison – "My Sweet Lord"
With poignant sincerity, George Harrison sang the lyrics, "I really want to know You/Really want to go with You/Really want to show You, Lord/That it won’t take long, my Lord." Deeply spiritual, Harrison subtly wove "hallelujahs" and Hare Krishna chants throughout the pious lyrics. He also underscored his worship of a divine entity with the repetition of the lyrics, "my sweet Lord" throughout the entire song. Harrison is now with the God he so dearly loved -- and that makes the lyrics all the more meaningful.
Stryper – "Honestly"
Blessed with pretty-boy good looks, an abundance of talent, a knack for theatrics, and the ability to write accessible music along with lyrics that don't preach, these rockers strongly connected with audiences worldwide, and brought Christian metal into the mainstream. The gorgeous power ballad, "Honestly," with its sweeping, majestic melody, and passionately delivered lyrics, became one of their best-known songs. Its lyrics, "Call on Me and I’ll be there for you/I’m a friend who always will be true/And I love you, can’t you see/That I love you honestly/I will never betray your trust in Me" are a message of comfort and reassurance from God to His followers.
Norman Greenbaum – "Spirit in the Sky"
Gospel call-and-response bursts make this sunny, classic rock song shine even brighter. Greenbaum wrote the lyrics, which convey joyous anticipation of the afterlife, in a mere 15 minutes. They include the lines: "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." Greenbaum, who is also Jewish and makes numerous references to Jesus in the lyrics, claims he had no religious intentions when he wrote the song -- he just wanted to reach a bigger market. Disillusioning as that may be, the song’s uplifting melody and lyrics make the hereafter a little less intimidating.
Train – "Calling All Angels"
Patrick Monahan of this Grammy Award-winning alt-rock band plaintively sings the lyrics of this emotionally moving song. He beseeches heaven, God and the angels above to give him a sign of their love amidst the world’s turmoil. Hungering for an anchor of faith, and professing he’ll be loyal to it once it appears, he sings the powerful lyrics: "I need a sign to let me know you’re here.../And I’m calling all angels/I won’t give up if you won’t give up."
KISS – "God Gave Rock 'N' Roll to You"
KISS? The fire-breathing, blood-spewing band who once dodged accusations that their name stood for Knights In Satan’s Service? Yep. A reworking of an Argent song from a uniquely KISS perspective, the lyrics include: "God gave rock and roll to you/Gave rock and roll to you/Put it in the soul of everyone." According to bassist/songwriter Gene Simmons, the tune's lyrics were rewritten "as kind of a guitar anthem song, that being in a band and playing guitar was a privilege and a God-given gift." And we thank God they were given that gift!
Motley Crue – "Shout at the Devil"
Donning leather and studs, playing songs loud enough to break the sound barrier, and branded as the world's -- if not the entire galaxy's – most notorious rock band, Motley Crue, along with this song penned by bassist Nikki Sixx, urge listeners to shout at -- not with -- the devil: "In the seasons of wither/We'll stand and deliver/Be strong and laugh/And shout, shout, shout/Shout at the devil." Despite the band's menacing appearance, they believed in giving the devil his due.
The Doobie Brothers – "Jesus is Just Alright"
For a band named after marijuana, the Doobie Brothers played an extremely spiritual tune with an exceptionally clear message about loving Jesus. As a matter of fact, rarely are mainstream hits so unwaveringly overt in their praise for Jesus. And the lyrics express a firm, steadfast belief that nothing and no one can undermine: "I don't care what they may say/I don't care what they may do/I don't care what they may say/Jesus is just alright/Jesus is just alright with me." Lead singer Tom Johnson reminisced that when the song was played in concert, fans would rush the stage with fingers pointed skyward, and even toss Scriptures to the band.
Ocean – "Put Your Hand in the Hand"
This oldie but goodie from 1971 encourages listeners to place their trust in Jesus. Its message was so well-received and so relevant that the song vaulted to Number 2 on the US charts. The reverent lyrics, written by tunesmith Gene McLellan, include the verse: "Put your hand in the hand of the man/Who stilled the water/Put your hand in the hand of the man/Who calmed the sea/Take a look at yourself/And you can look at others differently/Put your hand in the hand of the man/From Galilee."
Bob Dylan – "Every Grain of Sand"
Master storyteller and wordsmith, Bob Dylan, became a born-again Christian several years before this song was released on his 1985 album, "Biograph," and was, according to him, penned after he'd had an encounter with Jesus. In the album's notes, Dylan said, "That was an inspired song that came to me. It wasn't really too difficult. I felt like I was just putting words down that were coming from somewhere else…" Some of the pious, divinely inspired lyrics include: "I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame/And every time I pass that way I always hear my name/Then onward in my journey I come to understand/That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand."
ZZ Top – "Jesus Just Left Chicago"
From the band that penned another song in which they were "just looking for some tush," ZZ Top veered off sharply into spiritual turf with their rendition of "Jesus Just Left Chicago," and its worshipful lyrics: "You might not see Him in person/But He'll see you just the same/You don't have to worry/'Cause takin' care of business is His name." Guitarist Billy Gibbons has even stepped up to the religious plate, and is now known as Reverend Billy Gibbons!
Many rock lyrics aren’t an off-ramp directly to hell. The bands that pen lyrics about God may come as a surprise, but they’re definitely heading in a much different direction, on a much higher road.