Salt's Top 10 Favorite Surprising Yet Radical Fruit-Bearing Christian Rock Icons
For those who know the redemptive power of Christ to save any and all souls, regardless of found condition, these amazing converts will come to no surprise. Needless to say, their personal testimonies are powerful and deserve to be recognized. Some of these you may already know because they’ve dedicated most of their lives to sharing their experience. But, some of them may come as a surprise. Being a Christian is the most powerful, coolest, challenging, amazing thing one can do. And, these people are awesome living examples of keeping the faith.
10. ALICE COOPER
Alice Cooper, the genre-creating shock rock mastermind of the 70s who garnered fame through gore and guillotines as part of his dark theatrical stage act has probably shocked the world the most with his proclamation that he is in fact a born-again Christian. Cooper, who has maintained a decades-long career with an enormous following of adoring fans of all ages is very public about his recovery from advanced-stage alcoholism, his passion for golf, his conservative political views and his love for the Lord.
He has inspired people all over the world with his personal testimony and as a living example of an incredibly fruit-bearing Christian life. While Cooper keeps a low-key evangelistic approach, he prefers to refrain from fundie hellfire for a more humble humanist approach. He knows who he is, and to Whom he belongs and when asked gladly shares that openly. Alice Cooper celebrates over 30 years of sobriety, is a patriot, a devoted husband to Sheryl Goddard since 1976 and father of three, and a legit born-again Christian.
9. BRIAN “HEAD” WELCH, Korn
Guitarist for nu metal band Korn, Brian “Head” Welch, converted to Christianity in back in 2005 at a low point in his life from addiction. Afterward, he abruptly quit the band which was enormously successful at the time to begin his recovery, pursued creative solo music efforts and shared his testimony through public speaking, all while raising his daughter. A difficult but necessary departure chronicled in Welch’s book, Save Me From Myself: How I found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, And Lived To Tell My Story.
Eight years later, Welch rejoined Korn and spoke about what led him to reconnect with the band and return to the Korn fanbase largely populated by unbelievers. From an interview on the Christian television show Hour of Power with Bobby Schuller from Shepherd’s Grove church, ““I was gone for almost a decade, out of the band,” he said. “And I was doing my own thing, doing solo stuff, I was speaking a lot.
My daughter, she was three when God used her to lead me out of the band, ’cause of my heart for her, I wanted to be home and raise her. But then she turned 14 and she’s, like, ‘Take me to a rock concert.’ So I took her to a rock concert. Korn was playing. They asked me to play one song. I played one song with them. The singer breaks down in tears, the people in the audience break down in tears. My dad saw it online. He broke down in tears. I’m, like, ‘What’s going on?’ And a reconciliation story started to form. They asked me to come back [to the band]. I initially said no, because, honestly, I was a little religious and I was, like, ‘It’s not me anymore.’ And the Lord’s, like… He just pressed on my heart, like, ‘Go. It’s time. Those people are just like you were when you met me. Go spread my love to ’em.’ So it wasn’t about the money at all, ’cause I had royalties — I could sell my royalties — and it wasn’t about that. It was just, like, He led me, and I followed Him back there.”
Welch, a legit, radically fruit-bearing, born-again Christian, has made it his ministry to share the gospel through his testimony, his life and his music to the unbelieving metal masses as a living witness.
8. REGGIE "FIELDY" ARVIZO, Korn
Reggie “Fieldy” Arvizu, bassist, co-songwriter and bandmate of Brian “Head” Welch of nu metal band Korn and guitarist for hard rock band StillWell, gave his life to Christ shortly after the death of his father. Fieldy shares an unleashed, candid look inside his life of drugs, alcohol and the extreme highs and lows that came with the lifestyle that eventually led him to the redemptive power of Christ in his book Got the Life: My Journey of Addiction, Faith, Recovery, and Korn.
From a radio interview with Spirit 103.5/Blabbermout.net (which can be read in it's entirety here):
"First it happened to Head [KORN guitarist], my guitar player, and he happened to get saved and leave KORN. But it was a different situation, because he had a situation with his daughter where he had to be a full-time parent and he had to make this choice. And at the time, if that happened to me, I might have done the same, but I didn't have those problems. So when I did have my encounter with Jesus, it was… everything was fine. I mean, I was at my bottom, which I thought was bottom, but when I look back now, it wasn't bottom; it's just I didn't have a situation where I had to leave [the band]. So that's why I was kind of just stable where I was at. And I'm slower to decisions anyways, so I just kind of waited."
He continued: "It's a very mindblowing encounter when it happens; it's undeniable. It's completely so real that it almost will knock you on your back for a year before you realize, 'Wow! This is really going on.' So, yeah, ten years later, every single day that goes by, it's just undeniable.
"I've heard friends of mine say before… They're, like, 'It's no big deal to become a Christian. All you've gotta do is change everything.' [Laughs] That's why I think people are afraid — because they think, 'Well, I'm not ready for that.' Well, you're never gonna be ready for that. Jesus says, 'Come as you are.' He wants to clean you up. That's why people get religion mixed up. 'Ah, I see you've become religious.' I'm, like, 'That's where you have it twisted. I'm not religious.' I had an encounter with Jesus, and I want a personal relationship. And that's the only difference, I find over the years, that people keep confusing."
Fieldy, as Welch, continue to share their testimony and Christian walk through a variety of mediums including public speaking, poignant interviews, documentary film, and their autobiographies. Fieldy continues to tour with Korn but also views it as an incredible opportunity and anointed platform to share the light of Christ to the unbelieving world.
7. NICKO MCBRAIN, Iron Maiden
Drummer for metal band Iron Maiden, Nicko McBrain, gave his life to Christ in 1999 after a visit to church with his wife Rebecca. As McBrain puts it, he prayed to receive Christ, began reading the bible, and “had this love affair with Jesus going on in my heart.” Shocking as it might seem to mainstream fundies, McBrain still tours with "the Maiden" playing all the songs that I’ve personally head-banged to for decades, but is also part of the worship music team at his home church in Florida.
McBrain, as Alice Cooper and Brian Welch have realized, continues his career with a full blessing from the Lord as a living witness and testimony before the metal masses, probably one of the most challenging ministries to take on, and has seen many of his fans commit their life to Jesus. So, how can McBrain reconcile playing Maiden tunes like The Number of The Beast and not be perceived as glorifying Satan? In an interview with Canada.com, he explains: “"I kind of struggled with the idea earlier on when I first found my faith, and I put it in prayer, and I haven't had a problem with it. The 'Guv'nor' does not have a problem with it," Nicko explained. "Obviously, I'm still doing it."
He continues: "Look in the Book of Revelation, it tells you about all that, all that grief, all that business. And that, by the way, was a song written from a nightmare that Steve [Harris, Iron Maiden bassist] had.”"I can tap people on the shoulder and say, 'I'm not glorifying him [the devil]'; if I was, then I wouldn't be Christian. Because I understand, and most Christian people understand, that sin is the Devil's domain, and the ultimate sin is death, but we have a way up, and that's where your faith and your Christianity comes into play. Sometimes I've had an opportunity to talk to people about my faith, and what I feel, and maybe that's the way the good Lord's working with me. To still be able to be in such a great band, where people think we're demonic or Satanic, most people that know and have a modicum of sense and intelligence know that not to be true. It doesn't take an Einstein to listen to the records and listen to the lyrics of the songs to know what's going on."
"But when you become a Christian, you don't become sinless, the idea is to sin less. We're all sinners, we're never going to be clean 'till the day the good Lord is standing in front and judgment comes, but to me, I try to live my life, I do fall off, and occasionally I fall off hard and I have to get down on my knees and beg forgiveness, so it's not an easy ride, and it's not professed to be either."
6. DAN SPITZ, Anthrax
Dan Spitz, guitarist for thrash metal band Anthrax, had a Jewish upbringing but became a born-again Christian in 2000. Messianic Jews typically maintain Jewish customs and traditions but recognize that salvation is only possible through accepting Christ as their savior. Spitz has stated in interviews that his faith is an influential component to his life, particularly after leaving Anthrax and starting new projects. Spitz gives God the credit for his music. Spitz is also known around the world as a master, prize winning watchmaker.
5. DAVE MUSTAINE, Megadeth
Dave Mustaine, guitarist, one of the original members of metal band Metallica and then founder and front man of Megadeth, turned his life over to Christ after realizing that the efforts expended on drugs, alcohol and other rock n' roll lifestyle trappings left him drained and empty. Fed up with touring, problems with bandmates, his morale and general outlook was in a tailspin. Mustaine proclaims that after exhausting every other fleshly outlet for personal fulfillment failed he looked up at the cross and spoke six simple words, “What have I got to lose?” Mustaine states that his whole life changed from that point forward. “It’s been hard, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Mustaine has gone on to share his personal testimony, including the challenges he faced after his conversion which included severe neck injuries and problems with his hand, he maintains his Christian walk with an autobiography, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memior. Still touring and fronting Megadeth, Mustaine uses his voice and platform to continue to share his personal testimony and how Christ has changed and enriched his life and gave it purpose. Dave Mustain is a legit, fruit-bearing, born-again Christian and a true patriot.
4. DAVE ALLEFSON, Megadeth
Dave Ellefson, bassist and co-founder of Megadeth, are not only bandmates but share the same Christian faith. Ellefson tells that after his own pastor asked for help, Ellefson first became music leader using his gift and talent in that arena to serve, then onward to build his own ministry, MEGA Life Ministries. “To me, music is the inspiration that gets people excited about a lot of things including the faith community,” he stated in an interview with Behind the Mask Presents. He has written a book about his faith journey, My Life with Deth: Discovering Meaning in a Life of Rock & Roll, in which he offers a candid look at his extraordinary life in one of greatest heavy metal bands. He gives an enormously encouraging and empowering memoir of overcoming addiction and discovering Christ and a faith-filled life. Ellefson is a legit, mega-fruit bearing Christian.
3. RICK WAKEMAN, Yes
Rick Wakeman, glittery robe-wearing keyboard wizard and prolific song-writer for one of the most successful prog-rock bands of the 70s, Yes, was raised in a Christian family. He attended church regularly which he states was not forced upon him, but that he loved it and spent many enjoyable years there. He was baptized in September 1968, was trained in Sunday School teaching and involved in youth ministry. He states that his firm belief in God and his early church experience was the strong foundation for his faith. “I can never remember a time in my entire life when I had any doubt that God existed. I've had some bad times in my life and, there're days I've wandered off paths as most people have. But I never ever had a moment in time that I didn't believe in God, very strongly.” But, years in the secular music industry had chipped away at his faith and dedication to the Lord and he found him himself at a low point from drink and drug that prompted a move back to te place he knew he's belonged.
Wakeman desired to become a concert pianist, attended Royal College of Music and go on to cultivate an enormously successful music career, work with hundreds of musicians including David Bowie and Cat Stevens, wrote and performed a vast catalog of songs with Yes which in combination with his solo career sold more than 50 million albums. On his decision to become baptized, "I was very aware that apart from declaring my faith openly, I was going to be in the strange position of actually parting with that church. Rightly or wrongly, I felt that I wanted to show that I was on the right side before I went off to do whatever life was going to throw at me. And I suppose it was shortly after that that the world got busier, life got busier, and I found less and less time to do all the things that basically I declared in my life that I would do, as a Christian, and it became really difficult. There are no hard and fast rules but when you're travelling and things you have less and less time because you don't actually belong to a church... At that particular time the music industry, in fact the entertainment industry had as low a percentage of Christians as the England national team have of footballers. It was a low ebb as they say. Sometimes your strength both in life and in faith is being with other people. We were always taught that the church is people not a building. Suddenly it all changes. People's lives go off in many directions, it's what I lovingly call "the roundabout" -you and your mates all arrive at this roundabout and all your lives change, you all go off in different routes. I'm convinced that it is one of the major areas where it all goes wrong. This is the area where I feel churches should be putting in more time and thought, because that's the period of time I think when people need most help."
When asked how he reconciled his rock and roll years to his faith, "Even though I was making mistakes and doing lots of wrong things, I never ever had a moment when I didn't believe in God or the power of God or had the fear of God. I was aware of it when I was doing some things wrongly. I use a comparison sometimes of the number of times God said to Israel, 'Right, I've had enough of you but I'll give you one more chance,' because He is ever-forgiving, providing that you own up. So there comes a moment in your life whether you've had faith before or never had it, when you have to own up and look up towards the heavens and say, 'Alright God, point taken, come back on board.' Two interesting things happen from there - first of all, there aren't any blinding flashes of light, you're problems aren't solved ten seconds later. What you have got is, if you do it properly and mean it, you've got a clean bill of health; you've got a clean sheet to start with. What's gone before is forgiven, providing you have asked for that forgiveness. And then if people throw it back at you, you go, 'Okay, I can live with that,' because I know that from the moment you regale your life or you gave it for the first time you've got a clean bill of health. Basically that's what happened to me in the mid-80s."
From an interview with Charisma magazine, "When I brought my Christianity back into my life, things were going well," Wakeman says. "I was thinking how I'd managed to pick myself up from the gutter with Nina's help. And I thought, This is great--but there's something missing.
"Because I'd had such wonderful teaching from people I'd met in my first 19 years, it was easy for me to know what was missing."
In a Sydney, Australia, hotel room, he reflected on his life and rededicated it to Jesus. Rick and his wife Nina moved to the Isle of Man, a tiny island off northern England. A friend persuaded Nina to attend Broadway Baptist Church, where, says Wakeman: "There was no apparent hymn or sermon going on, but the Holy Spirit just hit her."
He returned from touring to find his wife's faith had been set on fire, and he began attending Broadway with her. The couple have been members there ever since. When Wakeman considered retreating from the mainstream to focus solely on Christian music--such as his 1996 The New Gospels--his old friend, Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, encouraged him to share his life and talents in both arenas--Christian and non-Christian.
2. BOB MARLEY
Robert Nesta Marley, known to the world as Bob Marley, “the king of reggae,” “the first Third World Superstar,” and by Rastafarians as “the teacher” or “the prophet” offered his voice and message of world peace, one love, and redemption until his death from cancer on May 11, 1981.
It is common knowledge that Bob Marley was a Rastafarian, an African-Caribbean ethno-movement rooted in black consciousness. Rastafarianism is a movement more than a religion, but at it’s origin, the idea that the Ethiopian Emperor Ras Tafari Makonnen, aka Haile Selassie I (1892-1975) was the awaited messiah. In Kingston, Jamaica, preachers like Joseph Hibbert claimed that Haile Selassie was indeed the personified second coming of Christ, the black messiah who would overthrow the current system of oppressive government and bring rule and reign to the race and culture.
However, Rastafarianism would evolve into a new element that took its Afro-Caribbean roots and add a creole of Hindu, Rosicrucianism and pantheism (and even a dash of Kabbalahist freemasonry) to instill the idea of “The Lion Spirit, the Christ Consciousness within each of us.” Today’s Rastafarians adopt the idea of “I and I,” or oneness with God and self. It puts man and God on a level playing field, which on its face, appears legit, but in reality, claims that we are gods ourselves and share the divinity of the Most High God, that God is man and man is God. Through spoken word, Rastafarians believe that God’s divine presence is manifested and holds power, that sin is both personal and corporate, and that Rastafarians are the chosen people for which to manifest this power and promote a peaceful utopia upon the earth. Of course, ganja is the vehicle for removing the mental barriers and achieving enlightment for which to further the movement.
Bob Marley was indeed a zealous prophet in these ideals. Almost like a high priest of Rastafarianism, he garnered world-wide fame and adoration of millions of fans over a span of decades. Through his songs like “One Love” and “Forever Loving Jah,” Marley becomes a worship leader on a grand scale calling followers to pray. Marley was not merely a performer, he was also an activist, particularly in a turbulent time in Jamaica’s history. Marley garnered so much attention and influence that he became the target of an assassination attempt in 1976. This did not prevent Marley from taking the stage two days later with his assassins still roaming free and with two gunshot wounds. When asked how he could take such an enormous risk, he said, “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I.”
From an article titled, Redemption songs: The Christian Conversion of Bob Marley:
His musical career was clearly motivated by more than fame and fortune. "If my life is just for me," he said, "my own security, then I don't want it. My life is for people. That is the way I am."
Marley developed a friendship with Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq who had been sent from Africa by the Emperor Haile Selassie I after he found out that many in Jamaica were worshipping him as God incarnate. (This belief is the center of Rastafarianism.)
Father Lloyd Malakot, currently the chief priest and administrator of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica, knew Archbishop Yesehaq well. He shared with me how the archbishop won Bob and many Rastas over through the witness of his love and respect for them. When police were arresting Rastas and shaving their dreads before releasing them, he went to the commissioner of police and stopped the persecution.
Archbishop Yesehaq became close friends with Bob who donated to his ministry, even giving him one of his houses in which the archbishop lived for years.
Years of friendship and charity earned the archbishop the right to be heard and, according to Father Malakot:
"Bob cried when the archbishop invited him to conversion and to give his heart to Christ. He decided to accept baptism."
Bob's baptism is marked by the heroic conviction with which he lived his life. For some Rastas, conversion to Christianity is tantamount to sacrificing the sacred cow. Yet this man who had become the international icon of Rastafarianism converted anyway, deeply upsetting many people, including some of his closest friends. Marley showed a willingness to renounce everything in his pursuit of God.
The late archbishop who baptized Bob several months before his death spoke of his deep faith in a 1984 newspaper interview with Jamaica's Sunday Gleaner:
"I remember once while I was conducting the Mass, I looked at Bob and tears were streaming down his face. ... When he toured Los Angeles and New York and England, he preached the Orthodox faith, and many members in those cities came to the Church because of Bob. . When he was baptized, he hugged his family and wept, they all wept together for about half an hour."
1. Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash, not a rock legend, you say? Well, that might be so, but he did cover a Nine Inch Nails tune and I’d always wished he was my father, so to me, he was the greatest rock star, ever. EVER. Johnny Cash, an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, actor and author, considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century in the country, folk, blues, rockabilly, rock and gospel genres, was probably the most genius and iconic crossover artists known to modern man. Outside of that, Mr. Cash was a full-fledged, born-again Christian.
Mr. Cash never brought a dishonest or conventional message to his audience even during an era when that was challenging in the extreme. This garnered a staunch following of fans who felt Johnny spoke to them and for them - the outcasts, the rebels, the misunderstood, the less-than-fortunate sons and daughters of Americana. who didn’t quite fit in to the mainstream squeaky-clean, plastic ideals of the time. Johnny made it loud and clear that you can be good in the heart, even in a less-than-perfect vessel, as long as one humbles themselves before the Lord.
During an interview a reporter attempted to nail him down to a specific denomination of which Mr. Cash would have none of it. He firmly stated, ““I—as a believer that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, the Christ of the Greeks, was the Anointed One of God (born of the seed of David, upon faith as Abraham has faith, and it was accounted to him for righteousness)—am grafted onto the true vine, and am one of the heirs of God’s covenant with Israel.”
“Being a Christian isn’t for sissies. It takes a real man to live for God – a lot more than to live for the devil.”