This week, I am profiling people who have had the most influence on my Christian spiritual life. Today’s profile is of a musical artist that most people have never heard of.
His Influence: The first song that I ever heard from the 77s, the band that Mike Roe founded in the late 70s, had a line that goes, “You spit out Manna, God sends quails.” I snapped to attention. I had been exposed to Contemporary Christian Music, and all of its superficial fluff and lame melodies, for so long that I hadn’t realized that an honest lyric and edgy rock music was even possible from a group of Christians. I picked up the album(actually a tape) and probably played it non-stop for a year. The album had it all – longing, celebration, teenage angst, blues, beauty, and a voice that was both haunting and uplifting.
Who was this guy? All I had was a band photo and a name in the liner notes. How did he mix longing, doubt, and disappointment with hope and faith? I was a confused teenager who didn’t think anyone could identify with me, who had very rarely had any kind of message reach into my soul and touch it with such poignancy as Roe’s songs did. I began to frantically search for older albums by the band. Every find was like another “letter from home”. It seemed like every song he wrote was one that related to me. He wrote about teenage lust, about the difficulty in forgiving others, and the superficiality of personal accolades. And Roe and the band encapsulated these subjects in pop songs that jangled and dripped with hooks or in rock songs that were so refreshingly bare for that overbloated musical time period.
The one song that meant the most to me and seemed to sum up my life during my high school and college years was a song entitled, “Come and Gone”:
The wrong places at all the wrong times
Too far ahead, too many years behind
Make-up my face to hide another line
But it’s a waste when all your precious prime’s
Come and gone
Come and gone
Baby, come on
And now you’re coming to me every day
You’re telling me it’s gonna be O.K.
And though my story isn’t much to read
If I’ve got you, the rest is history
Life is tough, our lives are broken but in Jesus we have a story to be grafted in to. A story with a glorious ending that can, even in the darkest times, be experienced right now and right here. Roe discussed his faith at a bare bones level that I needed as I muddled through my teenage years. In Roe’s music, I found comfort, hope, and an identity that was real and authentic and without fluff and church- speak. He has the most glorious ability to sweep you away through music and then knock you over the head with a lyric, or maybe it is the other way around. No matter, it is utter genius and something that I praise God for every time I listen.
What Mike Roe can teach you: “In this world you will have trouble. (Some of it self imposed) But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Mike Roe recommendations: If you want to experience Mike Roe and the 77s for yourself, check out these recommendations.
77s – Sticks and Stones – my first 77s album and the perfect choice for new listeners.
77s – 88 – The greatest live album of all time.
Michael Roe – Say Your Prayers – this should be the Christian Life Hacker soundtrack.