I recently purchased an iPod (yes, I’m late) and love the fact that I can upload a mishmash of my favorites jams on to this tiny device. If you expect to hear nothing but Hillsong praise and worship, you’ll be very disappointed.
Among my “must haves” in no particular order:
1.) Michael Jackson: Yep, dangit. I love Michael Jackson. But before anybody starts off with the “But he’s a child molester” rant, keep it. You’re not his judge and I for one, having read through hundreds of legal docs and court case transcripts, am pretty comfortable in asserting his innocence. Issues? Yes. Pedophile? No. Now to the music. I grew up listening to Michael. I had his posters all over my wall during the Thriller and Bad eras. I own every one of his solo albums and consider him the greatest entertainer I’ve personally seen in my generation. Justin Timberlake and Usher are great at being themselves but they don’t even come close to Jackson. One of the things I appreciate about the songs Michael wrote is that they paint vivid pictures. That might explain why I love the 1978 cut “This Place Hotel” because you can’t help but imagine this hotel where former girlfriends seeking revenge on him are hiding in every crevice of the place. And frankly, Michael provided me with my top TV memory moment outside of “Who Shot J.R.?” on May 16, 1983 when he moonwalked to “Billie Jean.” I thought, “This is too much for my 11 year old heart.” It wasn’t. I haven’t forgot it and despite all the troubles and dramas Michael’s been through the last 14 years, I’m still a fan. He’s on my prayer list.
2.) Keith Green: He died tragically in a 1982 plane crash, some 19 years before I ever popped a CD of his into my CD walkman. I worked at a Christian bookstore during breaks while I was doing my undergrad and was curious as to who the white man with the afro was on the CD cover I’d pass every day. I asked the Music manager and she gave me a rundown of what he was about. I listened to The Ministry Years collection and never looked back. Keith Green was a prophet and the place discipleship had both in his music and ministry are something sorely needed on today’s pathetic Christian music scene. “The Prodigal Suite” is my favorite Keith Green offering, although “You Put This Love In My Heart” and “Your Love Broke Through” are close behind. When I need to shake myself out of spiritual monotinitude (is that a word?), besides reading my Bible and spending more time with God, I put on “Asleep In the Light.” OUCH!
3.) Aretha Franklin: I want to be specific here. I love the Queen of Soul’s classic soul joints like “The House That Jack Built” and “Respect.” But it’s her 1972 gospel album Amazing Grace that has impacted me since I was a child. Although that album came out the year I was born, I remember my parents playing that when I was small. It never left me. Her rendering of “How I Got Over” and “Mary, Don’t You Weep” are astounding and, dare I say, anointed. Not bad for a “secular” artist. Franklin has never been shy about her faith and to her credit, whenever some friend of hers is ill, she is known to call for church-based prayer vigils. I ain’t mad at her.
4.) Rich Mullins: When Mullins died in 1997, all I could think to ask was “God, why do the good ones have to go so young?” Mullins’ work leaves me speechless. His “Hold Me Jesus” is probably the one song that sums up my DNA better than anything I could come up with. The vulnerability and mindless intoxication he clearly had with God saturated his music. I miss him dearly.
5.) Walter Hawkins: There would be no contemporary Christian or gospel music scenes today without the contributions of the Hawkins family (along with Andrae Crouch and Larry Norman). Hawkins took the gospel out to the streets and set it to a beat some older saints considered “worldly.” “Goin’ Up Yonder” and “Changed” are timeless.
6.) 4HIM: I love these guys. Their Best Ones is one of the best greatest hits you will ever find. “Where There Is Faith” and “Why” continue to help me through the mini-crises of life.
7.) Stevie Wonder: I LOVE this man’s music. I remember rockin’ to “Superstition” when I was just 4 years old! VH-1 just released his “Ones” collection and I must say it is a very nice selection considering the depth and breadth of his career. “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” and “Livin’ For the City” still resonate for 21st century inner city culture–sadly. Ask the folks in Ward 9 in New Orleans.
8.) Diana Ross & the Supremes: Girls groups like the Pussycat Dolls market sleeze. But the girl group to end all girl groups had class and talent (sadly missing today, ladies).
9.) Lauryn Hill: Her MTV Unplugged offering a few years back revealed a woman struggling with invading restorative grace of God and most music critics were uncomfortable with something as open, naked spiritual wrestling. Sad thing is I rarely get that same vibe from most of the Christian music the big music companies are pushing. Her version of “The Mystery of Iniquity” and “Rebel” stunned me. I remember sitting in my graduate dorm during seminary listening to “Just Like Water” where she moans the line “He’s changin’ me/He’s purgin’ me/And movin’ me around.” That lyric perfect captures what I experience during my John 15:1-7 experiences under the pruning knife of the Spirit.
Other folks you will likely find on my shuffle list:
The Gaither Vocal Band
Five for Fighting