The Times

Elvis brought controversial African American music to white audiences in an incredibly racist American climate, and went on to become one of the worlds first pop superstars.

Bob Marley rose from a tiny third world nation to become an international icon and he did it singing a genre of music that most people had previously never heard of.

Bob Dylan reintroduced an old and unpopular form of music to young audiences in the 60s and with what was considered an “unmarketable” voice became what many considered to be the voice of that generation.

In the 90’s Kurt Cobain and Nirvana brought punk rock out of the garage with the album Nevermind, and in a single year altered the landscape of popular music.

What these guys have in common is that they took unpopular genres and musical forms and made them standards. Each of them were able to transcend the current limitations, trends, and prejudices of the day, and excel in spheres that previously had no expectation for their work.

Before each of them, it would have been difficult to believe that what they did could have ever been successful. At Colombia records, Bob Dylan was initially known as “Hammonds Folly” because so many people believed that John Hammond, a man was famous for discovering and producing legendary talent, had made a massive mistake by signing Dylan. But today it would be almost impossible to imagine what music would be like without him.

Let me say, I certainly don’t believe we should ignore trends. They represent the collective forward motion of expression in community and culture. Still, my personal dream is to be able to make the kind of music that would scale the boundaries of convention and culture. I want to be able to tell a story that is restricted neither by fashion nor tradition.

My dream is to tell a story that transcends.

  1. I think in each of the examples you gave, the artists were the right sound for the right time in our history and culture. That was always the explanation for Nirvana. If you objectively look at their ability and style, they were nothing special. Yet as many have said they were the perfect antithesis of hair bands which people were growing tired of.So in my humble opnion, to transcend as a musical artist is to have a vast comprehension of the culture around you, and be able to identify what the remedy would be for what is "ailing" the people. To transcend is to be ahead of the curve and creating things your gut tells you to do even though they run perpendicular to what is popular.

  2. North said:

    man i wish i could know you in real life. we would be good friends. whoa. "…my person dream is to be able to make the kind of music that would scale the boundaries of convention and culture. I want to be able to tell a story that is restricted neither by fashion nor tradition." dude… you're already doing it. at least in my world. I rock your discs before worship at our youth movement, and all these kids ask what this sweet music is… kids in skinny jeans and flannels, affliction shirts and buckle jeans, black kids, white kids, all these kids are touched by your work. cause it's so REAL. all these kids want is something real. man, your music rocked my life, it's made such an impact in my spiritual walk, in my artistic endeavors, everything i do. You've changed the way I worship alone and the way i lead worship. So yeah, i'm pretty sure you'll transcend. amen.

  3. Luke said:

    well JM, you better start writing rap songs.

  4. Thiago said:

    great thoughts, JM! we all want to transcend!

  5. lar said:

    pretty rad jmm. pretty rad.

  6. Sometimes I wonder if massive changes to what I consider predominant North American church culture are necessary before what you talk about would ever become that kind of force to that culture. Perhaps that kind of art could be a catalyst for change in that culture, but in my opinion the paradigms of what worship is and what "worship music" should be are still too firmly embedded for that to happen. Granted I'm speaking in generalities, but it's the same kind of thing you were frustrated with in your previous post about why David Crowder felt it necessary to change some of your lyrics in "How He Loves Us." Look at someone like Sufjan Stevens – he makes deeply thoughtful and often reverent art from a Christian perspective, yet the majority of evangelical consumer culture hasn't even heard of him, let alone embraced him. He remains on the fringes of the mainstream in that sense. I'd consider him that kind of a pioneer, but only to the extent that individual, young, thoughtful Christians are influenced by him and motivated to continue stretching the bounds of current paradigms.In my opinion, changing the game will for a while mean changing one's sound and songwriting aims in ways that people like Derek Webb try to do. This will often mean eschewing "success," at least the way that's currently measured with regards to Christian singer/songwriters who are involved with the "worship" industry (Crowder, Tomlin, Hillsong, etc. etc.).Just some thoughts.

  7. kidko said:

    How come all, they all, are destroyed within the bounds of there own vices and yet the one one who really suffers is the one everyone identifies with. My sad statement might be true.

  8. All the examples you give were the match to a discontent, critical mass of gunpowder. I’m not so sure there is the same critical mass of discontented bourgeois in the Christian culture. Furthermore, those musicians that lit the match did not do so after careful market research that directed them to the right place to strike. They were all in a way swept up by a movement far greater than themselves and most likely well beyond thier vision at the time.

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