Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Before and After: Christian Artist’s First and Most Recent Videos

The original MTV (Music Television) launched on August 1, 1981 playing music videos 24 hours a day. The channel’s very first video was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. Ironically, that very same network dropped “music television” and almost all of the videos in 2010 but radio still lives on.

Still, the whole of idea of watching a song play had an incredible effect on the music industry and is still used widely even though less people are watching. It didn’t take long for the Christian recording industry to catch on to the trend and started to produce their own videos, some of which actually ended on MTV as well.

I thought it might be fun to do a piece on five popular Christian music icons that not only produced videos in the 80’s but are still making them. Sort of a “whatever happened to…” multi-media article. Let me know what you think!


Amy Grant before:
Grant made her debut in 1978 with her first self-titled album which featured her breakout song, “Old Man’s Rubble.” It also featured the silly, “Grape, Grape Joy,” but then again, she was just 16 at the time. In the spring of ’79, Grant released her second album; My Father’s Eyes and met her future husband, Gary Chapman. 1982 was a big year for Grant. She got married, and released her fourth studio album, Age to Age, where the song, “El Shaddai” helped her to win her first Grammy as well as two GMA Dove Awards. Age to Age was certified gold (first for a solo Christian artist). It was certified platinum two years later.


By 1985, Grant decided to crossover to mainstream pop music. Some fans were put off by the look of the leopard-print jacket she wore on four different covers of Unguarded. The album included “Find a Way,” which made it to the Billboard’s Top 40 list and was the basis of her first video.


Amy Grant after:
A lot has changed for Grant since ’85. She ruffled feathers of the flock in ’99 with her divorce from Chapman and then remarried the next year to Vince Gill. Over the years, she has seen her share of critics complaining about everything from why she didn’t preach enough during her concerts to even the quality of her voice. Through it all, Grant has remained firm in her convictions and her critics have quieted down some. Today she is reveling with her latest release, How Mercy Looks from Here, which features music by artists not normally associated with Christian themes including, James Taylor, Carole King, Sheryl Crow and others. It has received high marks from both Christian and secular music critics alike. Here is a video that features Grant on the Katie Couric Show singing her title track:




Leslie Phillips before:
Leslie Phillips began her career singing in the background for such Christian singers as Mark Heard and Randy Stonehill, but by 1983, Myrrh Records signed her on to do her first solo album, Beyond Saturday Night. However, it wasn’t until the 1984 release of Dancing with Danger, that really propelled her to fame with such hits as “Dancing with Danger,” “Powder Room Politics” and the Grammy-nominated, “Strength of My Life.” Here is a little-known video of Phillips singing the song “Hourglass” from her first album.





Sam Phillips after:
Despite the success and popularity of her music, (she was referred to many as the “Christian Cindy Lauper”), Phillips was never comfortable in the role of a Christian music artist. In an attempt to distance herself, Phillips changed her name from Leslie to Sam. She signed on to Virgin Records in 1988 and released her first “Sam” album, The Indescribable Wow in which the first single, “Holding On to the Earth” made it to No. 22 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. In 1995, Phillips continued to make Christians nervous as she made her acting debut in a small role in the Bruce Willis action flick, “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”

While Phillips is not seen in the limelight all that often anymore, she has continued to write music and record albums. In addition, she has written music for television shows like “Gilmore Girls” and most recently, the ABC Family show, “Bunheads.” In her true trailblazing pattern, Phillips launched her own music subscription service, The Long Play in 2009. Finally, next month, she will release her latest CD, Push Any Button. Here is a video of the song, “Things I Shouldn’t Have Told You” which features over 100 original art piece album jackets.






Michael W. Smith before:
Many fans would be shocked to know that Michael “Whitaker” Smith was at one time addicted to drugs. In 1979, he had a breakdown that ultimately lead him back to Jesus and the next day auditioned for the Christian group, Higher Ground. By 1981, he was writing music for such artists as Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither and Amy Grant. In 1983 he produced his first album, The Michael W. Smith Project and went on a concert tour with Grant. Smith performed in his first video in 1984 with the song “Secret Ambition” from the Eye to Eye album:






Michael W. Smith after:
Since the beginning, Smith has ventured in other areas including composing contemporary classic orchestra pieces with his very popular Christmas albums, producing a number of worship albums (his latest, Decades of Worship, just came out last year) and a few instrumental albums. Below is a clip for a more recent performance from April of this year at the Symphony of Life event in the Netherlands. Here he plays, “Come See.”





Petra before:
Petra is heavily regarded as a pioneer Christian rock band. The group formed in 1972 and formed their first album, Petra, in 1974. The music was softer then, fitting in with the Jesus movement at the time. The group produced six albums before making their first video, “Beat the System” for 1985 album of the same name.





Classic Petra after:
Over the years, Petra has cycled through over 20 band members including, Greg X. Volz, John Slick, and Rob Frazier. The played together continuously until 2006 when the group officially disbanded. However, you can’t keep a good band down. In 2007, two members, Schlitt and Hartman, reunited for the praise and worship album, Vertical Expressions and calling themselves, II Guys from Petra. In 2010, the group decided to reunite and continue on as Classic Petra and is still performing on the road. Here is a video of a performance in 2012 of the song, “Too Big to Fail”:


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