The hippie movement and early seventies idealism had a lot of common ground with Jesus: Jesus had long hair, was a revolutionary, was opposed to materialism and his biggest thing was LOVE.
In a counter-reaction to the Vietnam War, the youth culture gravitated to the message of peace seemingly epitomized by Jesus. Those that were openly "Truckin' with Jesus" were known as Jesus Freaks and their movement was massive.
By the end of the 70's, thing began to change. We had vacated Vietnam, hippies had turned in the sandals in favor of platform shoes, experimental drugs like LSD gave way to recreational drugs like coke, and materialism was the name of the game. The peace loving hippie Jesus was a distant, bad memory.
Well, not any longer. Let's take a brief stroll through a time when Jesus was cool.
We've all heard "Spirit in the Sky", but there was an avalanche of Jesus music during this time period, often by bands that were far, far from our modern conception of a Christian group. This was a time when both The Byrds and the Doobie Brothers sang:
"Jesus, He's my friend. He took me by the hand; led me far from this land."
Then there was the folk music contingency which abounded. A lot of the records being sold in the early seventies looked an awful lot like the one below, and contained such feelgood peace-loving songs like "Put Your Hand in the Hand".
The Ancient Star Blog is a great resource to view and listen to music from the Jesus Era. Bands like The Settlers mixed straight ahead Christian music like "Jesus Met The Woman at the Well" with songs by the Beatles "Nowhere Man" and activist songs like "Martin Luther King's Dream". Here they are again, pictured below.
Then, of course there was Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. On the Superstar album, Jesus was played by the lead singer of Deep Purple!
I particularly love Yvonne Elliman's rendition of "Everything's Alright" on the Superstar LP. You may remember her from her the disco hit "If I Can't Have You", but she absolutely shines as Mary Magdalene.
Another absolutely incredible place to see album covers and listen to digitized vinyl from the Jesus era is Heavenly Grooves. Here's a couple album covers from the era which really give me that peaceful easy feeling.
The album above contains a song called "Plastic Jesus". Quit sellin' me a plastic Jesus, man. My Jesus is a friend of the earth, man, and don't live by your rules. Ya dig?
Then, as quickly as appeared, the Jesus movement was over. Sure, America has remained a largely religious country, but the image of Jesus as an ally against the establishment and peaceful back-to-nature hippie are long gone. Somewhere along the way things got really, really cheesy....
A big thanks to the Funky Junk Trunk for this clip and inspiring this post.