(Photos courtesy of Amazon)
5 Artists That Made CCM History
By Sarah Komisky
Many know Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) as it is today on the radio but did you know CCM traces back it’s roots to the early ‘70s? And guess what? The musical journey is awesome! So let’s take a tour of music history with five amazing artists you may not know that changed the genre and culture forever.
‘70s: Love Song
Burned out of the drug scene of the ‘60s and on a quest to find the meaning of life, a group of hippie musician friends visited Blue Top Christian Commune on a search for truth. Invited out to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, they met the beloved by hippie pastor, Chuck Smith and found the truth they were looking for in Jesus Christ. A few weeks after their conversion, Love Song was reborn playing for the first time at the church the same secular style of the time, but with a Christian message. With a simple passion to create and share with others about Jesus, the band became an integral part of the Jesus Movement. Receiving national media attention from record label and magazines like Rolling Stone, while playing the first Christian music festival at Knott’s Berry Farm. In turn, they toured and under the leadership of Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa helping launch the first Christian rock label called Maranatha! Music. Molding the contemporary Christian music genre, they created rock that matched the quality of their contemporaries. Standing the test of time, this band encapsulates a sound of a decade and the heart of the revival that changed our world forever.
Listen: Love Song (1972)
For Fans Of: America; Jimmy Hendrix; Canned Heat
In a time where ‘80s big metal hair bands topped charts, a band named Stryper came on the CCM scene in 1985 and did the unthinkable – create Christian metal. Releasing Soldiers Under Command which became the band’s first gold record, Stryper made it to the Billboard charts. Additionally, the band became the second Christian band to receive airplay on MTV at the top 10 slot with the songs “Free” and “Honestly.” The album To Hell With The Devil became multi-platinum and movies like Whip It starring Drew Barrymore and Pain & Gain with Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson paid homage to the band’s cultural significance. Overall, Styrper whose name is derived from Isaiah 53:5 are a high energy rock band who have remained grounded in their faith and commitment to their convictions as Christ followers.
Listen: To Hell With The Devil (1986)
For Fans Of: Van Halen; Bon Jovi; Def Leppard
‘90s/2000s: Crystal Lewis
While Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion were making history as powerhouse female singers, a powerhouse of own right named Crystal Lewis stepped on the CCM scene. A favorite of pop stars Katy Perry and Tori Kelly, Crystal Lewis has recorded over 200 songs, released 20 albums, and is a multi-Dove Award winner and 3 time Grammy nominee. Singing alongside R&B and Gospel legends like Mary J. Blige, Kirk Franklin, CeCe Winans, Andrae Crouch, and even Pop Star Donna Summer, Lewis has remained a standout to the genre with her signature voice and magnetic presence. Over the years, the artist made the song “People Ger Ready” an anthem for those who attended the Harvest Crusade with Greg Laurie. With innovative style, Lewis keeps challenging herself with various collaborations and dabbling in different genres, her latest being the R&B dance song “Dancing Through Tunnels” and the most recent Jazz album, Rhapsody. Remaining true to herself Lewis is a surprising chameleon that remains current.
For Fans Of: Mariah Carey; Jennifer Hudson; Tori Kelly
The popularity of music videos to MTV and Vh1’s credit were huge in the ‘90s and Christian artist Carman championed this through his music and videos that spanned across all genres. From Hip hop to country, Carman was catching on to the trends of the ‘90s with a keen intentionality to reach the generation for Christ. Between 1987 to 1989 he was named Charisma magazine’s readers choice of favorite male vocalist. With 15 gold albums and videos that sold 10 million records, Carman holds the attendances record for the largest single Christian concert in history. Packing out stadiums that hosted celebrities like U2, Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Garth Brooks, Carman created an event of free admission to reach others with the gospel. In turn, the concert was just as entertaining as any other A-list performer. Unlike any other CCM artist, Carman reached audiences in new ways unheard of before that time. Today, his creative music videos and music are still celebrated for translating the gospel to our modern vernacular.
Listen: R.I.O.T (1995)
For Fans Of: Janet Jackson; Michael Jackson; ‘90s Dance Pop
2000s: Plus One
At the millennium, pop music was at it’s zenith. CCM’s alternative to the trend was a band called Plus One, a band referring to the members of the group, plus God. When auditions were held by Atlantic Records to create a Christian boy band motivated by the success of N Sync, Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees, five young men in their late teens and early twenties auditioned and formed the group that made CCM history. Believing God called them to do great things for the gospel, these guys went for it! Complete with catchy songs and dance moves signature of the time, their debut “The Promise” that released in 2000 sold 500,000 album sales. The band also worked with Grammy Award Winning Producer David Foster for the project, landed a song on the Pokémon Movie Soundtrack, appeared on hit TV show, “Touched By An Angel,” performed with “it” artist Monica, had music videos on MTV, and released their own Christmas album. Obvious released in 2002 was a follow-up featuring their own material and edgier sound compared to N Sync’s Celebrity album. After two bandmates left the band to pursue other ministries and obligations, the remaining bandmates continued to pursue music releasing their final album entitled, Exdous in 2003 that had a more mature sound. Although the ban broke up in 2004 after a final tour, this band made a huge impact on culture that makes fans today still want that reunion.
For Fans Of: N Sync; Boys to Men; Backstreet Boys
Listen To: Obvious (2002)
There you go! Five artists that were total world changers. I hope you these artists inspire you towards change, become new favorites, and that you make your own CCM throwback discoveries. We’re just scratching the surface, so browse YouTube, Amazon, iTune, and Spotify today for more. Happy listening.