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CCM:  Its Origin


    CCM:  Contemporary Christian Music.  This music genre is the music of choice of millions of Christians today.  The most popular bands include BarlowGirl, Toby Mac, Mandisa, Casting Crowns, and Third Day.  CCM outsells classical, Jazz, Latin, and soundtrack music and includes hundreds of radio stations and internet stations.  One of the most popular CCM programs, K-Love, claims to have almost 1,500,000 weekly listeners.

    This information will not be news to many people.  But what is the origin of CCM?  It is actually a recent development (in the 2000 year history of Christianity).  From colonial times to the 1950s, most people in churches used hymnals as their singing guide.  Then something happened to change that.

    The “something” which happened occurred at that time in America when a lot of things changed, the late 1950s, the 1960s, and the early 1970s.  Specifically to our topic, the invention, development, and growth in popularity of Rock and Roll music of the late 1950s and 1960s and the hippie and Jesus freak movements of the 1960s and early 1970s.

    Rock and Roll music developed a huge following in the late 1950s and 1960s with the introduction of multitudes of new music acts: Elvis and the Beatles are two prime examples.  Many young people converted to this new form of popular music.  But the music of choice in the churches remained that of hymns.  Young people listened to Rock and Roll outside the church and to hymns inside the church.  That changed with the Jesus freaks.

    Broadly defined, Jesus freaks where those hippies from the 1960s and early 1970s who became Christian.  The hippies of that time were people who followed the mantra “Turn on, tune in, drop out” (coined by Timothy Leary in 1966) and lived a counterculture lifestyle.  For the purpose of this article, understand that as “do my own thing” or rebel against authority (“do not trust anyone over 30”). 

    So you had a bunch of Christians (Jesus freaks) who rebelled against authority, civil and religious, and wanted to live life on their own terms, free of tradition or the culture they were raised in.  These Christian hippies began to challenge and change all sorts of mainstream ideas within Christianity, including the music played in churches.

    Dressing up in suit and tie or nice dress to go to work or church did not appeal to the Christian hippies, and so they did not follow that tradition.  Similarly, when they worshipped, they chose the music which appealed to them, which was, well, nothing.  See, contemporary Christian music had not been developed yet.  So a new genre of music formed out of these Christian hippies wanting to sing their own style of songs.  And what type of music was most popular in the 1960s and early 1970s and used as a pattern for the new Christian music?  Actually two types were popular then:  Rock and Roll and also Folk Music.  This new genre would become known as CCM.

    Ralph Carmichael is known as the Father of Contemporary Christian Music; he founded Light Records, a music publishing company, in 1966 to promote a new style of music.  At first the music was in a folk music style, such as the musical “Tell It Like It Is” and which featured the song “Pass It On.”  Eventually he signed artists who would become Contemporary Christian Music stars.  One of the first albums of this new genre was Upon This Rock by Larry Norman; it came out in 1969 [not on the Light Records label].  Other pioneers of CCM music included Andrea Crouch and the Disciples (begun 1968), Love Song (1970), Petra (1972), and 2nd Chapter of Acts (1973).  Today CCM has morphed into many subgenres, including Christian rock, Christian hardcore, Christian metal, Christian alternative rock, Christian punk, Christian country music, Progressive Southern Gospel, Christian hip hop, Gospel blues, Urban contemporary gospel, Christian adult contemporary, Christian inspirational, Christian electronic music, Christian pop music, Christian folk music, Christian instrumental, Christian jazz, and Christian raggae.


©2009 Mark Nickens


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