Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Genesis of a Genre: The Birth of Christian Rock by Joe Markko was one of the biggest surprises of this contest in terms of enjoyability and what we took away from it. Let's face it: Christian rock by its very nature is not a “sexy” topic. It's treated and viewed almost like a secondary or sub-genre in the music industry. Well, author Joe Markko was able to do something borderline-magical: making Christian rock cool, interesting, and significant. You really feel like something huge was accomplished by the band, Agape, breaking onto the scene as pioneers of the genre and setting the stage for decades to come.
The truth of the matter is, this is an extremely niche topic. It's not something that seems applicable to a universal audience like a stress relief book, a business book, or even something like a memoir or history. The key word there is “seems.” It actually is applicable to large audience and in a lot of ways.
First of all, this isn't just a book about Christians doing something new, challenging, and exciting, this is a book about PEOPLE doing something new, challenging, and exciting—being pioneers, mavericks, trend-setters, and trail-blazers. That's something that most creative, imaginative, inventive, and innovative people can get behind.
Christianity remains the largest religion in the world with over 2 billion followers. The music industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry that appears to be growing exponentially. So, although Christian rock is in a tight niche, they're part of something that's truly humongous when you put it all in perspective.
It's sobering to think that it all started in the 1960s with a bunch of rag-tag kids from LA who got together because they loved Jesus and loved making music. These included Fred Caban, the lead bass and lead singer on some occasions; Lonnie Campbell, the first female bassist in the history of Christian rock; Jim the piano man; Mike, the jazz man; and Ron, the evangelist/manager (later replaced by Richard Greenburg).
The band experiences a lot of ups and downs like any entrepreneur will. They gain members and lose members, sometimes having to rebuild, retrain, and adapt. The loss of Ron is particularly interesting because Ron had a very aggressive evangelical slant that apparently inspired Billy Graham, one of the most famous, successful, and controversial evangelical preachers of all time. Ron was a rebel and a non-conformist who had some controversial methods in getting his band some steam and attention, even getting them to open for bands in place of the bands that were actually scheduled. He was able to muscle his way into situations where the band could get exposure.
Under Richard, the band had one of its most incredible and funny moments when they were able to calm down and exchange hugs with the Jewish Defense League which had come at them with weapons initially. In a similar incident, the band made peace with the Black Panther Party which also came at them with aggression initially. These kinds of incidences show that God can work in incredible and unexpected ways to bring people to him and to make peace.
Although the writing is usually quite matter-of-fact and simplistic, often with minimal formatting, some of the quotes in this book are some of the best we've ever read. For example:
“How near to heaven do you imagine Icarus ascended before learning, from waxen-wings, that some things just don't work out? No matter how heroic or daring, no matter purity of purpose, or the size of sacrifice, sometimes things don't work out.”
“When you want to know about a man, ask his wife.”
The other thing that is ridiculously awesome about this book is the RESEARCH! The author did an incredible amount of research and interviews to put this book together. Their bibliography is exhaustive!