9/13/08

Fads #2: When Jesus Was Cool

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."

Jesus Is Just Alright - The Doobie Brothers

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!
Superstar - Jesus Christ Superstar - 2.09

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.

Everythings Alright - Andrew Lloyd Webber

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.

6 comments:

  1. I still have the studio version of Jesus Christ Superstar here somewhere and really like that album. The singer for Jesus was none other than Ian Gillian, soon to be of Deep Purple and Smoke on the Water fame. A cool libretto by Tim Rice and still one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's more accessable scores.

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  2. I thought about this recently myself, when watching Jesus Christ Superstar again. Plus in Vanishing Point, which I saw it again recently, there is a scene of some hippie Christians. This was a cool and interesting take on Jesus.

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  3. I belive in Vanishing Point the hippie Christians are Delaney and Bonnie. They worked with Leon Russell, and Eric Clapton toured with them as well. As a member of their band, not them backing him. I know some former Jesus Freaks, and they are still pretty much that way.

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  4. Nice site, sir. Just written a couple of pieces about this subject myself, was googling similar stuff and stumbled across retrospace. I'm currently wondering whether a 'Truckin' With Jesus' t-shirt is a good idea or a step too far. Anyway, keep up the good work etc.

    http://whatwould-jesusblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/christploitation-jesus-movement-era.html

    http://www.electricroulette.com/2009/02/holy-fuzz-more-mondo-christploitation-from-the-jesus-movement-era.html

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  5. God Bless. I mean - Right On!

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  6. I always thought it was hilarious that "Spirit in the Sky" ("I've got a friend in Jesus") was sung by Norman Greenbaum, who I'm pretty sure won the "Most Jewish Name" contest while a kid.

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