Today's episode of A New Beginning is brought to you by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God.
Learn more at harvest.org. And while you're there, browse our library of free e-books designed to help you grow in your faith. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie looks at the lives of famous musicians who self-destructed and finds the answer for that hopelessness. Christ is the answer for everyone. He's the answer for the rock star. He's the answer for the unknown person. He's the answer for the billionaire. He's the answer for the person that doesn't have two pennies to rub together. He's the answer for every man, every woman, every boy, every girl.
Christ is the answer. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Oh, can you hear when the angels are singing? This is the day, the day when life begins. I'm glad you're along today for a special edition of A New Beginning. Pastor Greg Laurie is here with us today to talk about the insights he shares in a brand new book, Lennon, Dillon, Alice, and Jesus, subtitled The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll. The first thing people may notice about the title, Pastor Greg, is that the name of Jesus is included among some seemingly dissimilar names. Bob, Dillon, John Lennon, Alice Cooper.
It's almost like a civil service exam. Pick the one that doesn't belong. Yes. Well, go to the Bible and look at Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus and Zacchaeus, Jesus and the woman at the well, Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery. It fits because my point is take these iconic people and I want to tell you about their spiritual journeys. That's a spiritual biography of rock and roll and it has some surprising revelations about maybe your favorite pop or rock star, things you did not know about them specifically in the area of their search for God. For instance, take John Lennon. Of course, we all remember his famous statement when he said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
Let me just address that for a moment. To a generation of people, at that moment in time, there was some truth to that and I would include myself as a young person because I knew nothing of Jesus but I knew everything about the Beatles. And Lennon went on to try to explain it saying, well, if I would have said television is more popular than Jesus, there wouldn't have been this controversy or uproar. But things changed in the life of John Lennon after he made that statement and we explore those things in the book. Now, I'm not suggesting John Lennon was a Christian at the end of his life but I have to point this out. There is a moment in time when John Lennon made a profession of faith to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Not only that, he recorded two gospel songs that you can find online if you search for them. Now, it was not a long-lasting thing but it was very big to him. He wrote about it extensively in his diary. But then he seemed to fall away from that but in some ways, toward the end of his life, which was a very tragic end, you see that he mentioned some of those things again.
So here's my point. John Lennon made a profession of faith earlier in his life. He was tragically gunned down in New York City by Mark David Chapman. He was conscious after he was shot.
He was being driven to the hospital and the police officer driving him said, do you know who you are? And Lennon replied, yes, I do. If he was conscious and aware, if John Lennon called out to Jesus Christ in the final moments of this life, would his prayer have been heard?
The answer is yes. We think of the thief on the cross who said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said, truly, truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise. I wrote this book to give encouragement and hope to people out there who will read it who have a loved one that is not a Christian. They don't seem like they would ever become a Christian. It might be your husband or wife or your mom or your dad or your son or your daughter or a coworker or a friend and you will see in this book as you explore the lives of those who have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and in many cases, been the t-shirt that they climbed to the top of the mountain and there was nothing there. So should it surprise us that these people are searching for a deeper meaning in life? You see, when you are thinking if only I was rich, if only I was famous, if only I had a record or if only I filled a stadium with a bunch of people chanting my name, I would be happy. These people have experienced it.
They know that's not the answer. So many of them have gone on a deep search for God. So there's a lot here that may surprise you. Now, at first blush, it's interesting that a pastor is writing a book about rock and roll and rock musicians.
It seems like an unlikely pairing. Well, let me just say that I've always loved music. I've always loved rock and roll to quote the great theologian Joan Jett. I love rock and roll. And so I've always been aware of rock. I've always listened to rock. I kind of became aware of it more as a young man watching the Beatles.
But in this book, this is not glorifying rock music or rock musicians. This is a book that is exploring the lives of people that have basically experienced everything this world has to offer and have found it empty. It's sort of a modern version of the story of Solomon, who had everything this world offers. And then he concluded it was all emptiness. It was like chasing the wind. It was like a bubble that bursts. And so, you know, when you've climbed to the top of the mountain and you've been all that in a bag of chips, when you've been on a lunchbox or on a t-shirt or people, you know, have your poster hung in their room, you realize how empty all of that is. So I explore these stories. One fascinating section of the book is about the so-called 27 Club.
Ever heard about that? These are artists who are very well known, who all tragically died at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27.
So did Janis Joplin. You have to put Jim Morrison in there as well. Fast forward a number of years, and you put Amy Winehouse in there, along with Kurt Cobain.
People that had it all and yet died at the very young age of 27. So I sort of show the birth of rock, the growth of rock, the pinnacle of rock in the 60s and 70s, and then the just complete collapse of so many of these iconic people. But then I explore the lives of those rock stars who have come to Jesus Christ and are following him. People I've gotten to know personally, like Dion Demucci of Dion and the Belmonts, Richie Fure of the Buffalo Springfield and Poco and Alice Cooper, who I've interviewed multiple times.
This is a guy that has experienced all that this world has to offer and has found it empty and now is following Jesus Christ. You know, I'm not sure how we can relate to the lives of these musicians and rock stars. Yeah, I've tried to imagine what it must be like to be extremely famous, you know, where you can't even go to the grocery store without a mob developing. You can't open your blinds for fear of paparazzi with telephoto lenses.
And that's the point you make in the book. These music stars have a lot of stuff, but they have a lot of stress too. Yes, they really do. I mean, it's been said, careful what you wish for, you might get it. And these are people that got what they wished for and then it even went beyond their wildest dreams.
But the problem is the dreams in many cases turned into a horrible nightmare. You know, when you look at the founders of rock, if you will, they called them the millionaire quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins. They were all produced by a man named Sam Phillips who had Sun Records. These guys came from abject poverty in some cases. They were just country boys. All of them was sort of a gospel foundation. All of them were taken to church as young men and of course they all rebelled against it.
But interestingly, every one of those founders ultimately came to realize they needed to turn to Jesus. Elvis struggled through the years. He often sang gospel songs. There's a lot of fascinating revelations about Elvis Presley in this book, Len and Dylan, Alice and Jesus.
Jerry Lee Lewis is the only one alive still of the four. But in recent interviews, he's talked about his need to get right with God. And of course, Johnny Cash became very strong in his faith. I wrote a whole book about him as a matter of fact called Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon. And then finally, Carl Perkins who wrote Blue Suede Shoes and other great songs.
He was a raging alcoholic and actually came to the Lord while he was on tour with Johnny Cash and took his bottle of booze and threw it into the ocean and committed his life to Christ and served the Lord for the final years of his life. So yeah, these guys experienced it and in some cases, girls experienced it and saw the emptiness of it. So this is a very honest book. So I start the book with these words. There'll be three surprises when we get to heaven. Number one, some of the people we thought would be there won't be there. Number two, some of the people we never thought would be there will be there.
Surprise number three, you'll be there. So these are some of the people you never thought would be there who will be there because no one is beyond the reach of God. Well, we're talking with Pastor Greg Laurie about his new book called Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus. Pastor Greg, your book is very balanced in its look at artists who flamed out and artists whose career caught fire and artists who became on fire for Christ. You know, you mentioned Bob Dylan who released three albums with Christian content but has been sort of an enigma that no one can quite figure out. Yes, Bob Dylan is surely an enigma.
He always has been and I suspect he always will be. Dylan is beyond just a musician. Dylan is iconic. He influenced so many other artists, most notably the Beatles. John Lennon admitted that a number of the songs he wrote were modeled after Bob Dylan songs. Jimi Hendrix recorded Bob Dylan. The Byrds recorded Bob Dylan. He was such a man of influence and that's why it was such a shock to everyone when Bob Dylan came out with a record that was called Slow Train Coming and spoke boldly about his faith in Jesus Christ. I believe that Bob Dylan had a genuine conversion and for many fans of rock, it was the rock version of the conversion of Paul on the Damascus road. Dylan went on to record three beautiful gospel records and I happen to think that Slow Train Coming was some of the finest work he had ever done. But anyway, in his concerts he started talking about his faith in Jesus Christ. Effectively, Dylan was preaching.
I witnessed this firsthand. Kathy, my wife, and I went down to Santa Monica, saw him there in concert. It was not a full room and there were people yelling out at him, play the old songs.
We don't want to hear this. And Dylan was actually trying to articulate his faith. So after his third gospel record, he just stopped talking about it.
So some people concluded he didn't believe it anymore and that he had walked away from it and in fact returned to his Jewish roots because they could not believe that he could be a Jewish man following Jesus Christ. Well, I don't see any indication in my deep dive into the life and career of Dylan that would indicate to me that he has abandoned his faith. One of his more recent records, which was a collection of Christmas songs, somebody interviewing him said, it almost sounds like you believe the words of these songs and the way you sing them.
And Dylan's response was, well, I do. So I think that Bob Dylan is what I would call a work in progress. You know, there are people that curse God, rebel against God, never acknowledge God, and you can pretty safely say that as a non-believer, but they're not beyond hope and you should keep praying for them. But then there are some who've made a profession of faith. They seem to have had a lapse or they've fallen, but don't write them off so quickly.
I call them a work in progress. Then there are others who have made a profession of faith and are still walking with the Lord. Case in point, Dan DeMucci made a commitment to Christ years ago and he's still walking with Jesus Christ today. Alice Cooper was really addicted to drugs and alcohol and his life was going downhill fast. He could have so easily been another statistic of a rock star dying of an overdose, but he made a commitment to Christ, he got clean and sober, and he has been walking with the Lord for well over 30 years now. So I explore many more stories of rock stars and we get into some of the current artists today who've made professions of faith as well, like Kanye West and Justin Bieber and others. And so we need to be praying for these iconic rock stars who have had so much success and pray that God gets hold of them and also pray that the Lord would cause them to use their massive platforms for his glory and talk about Jesus Christ.
But I wrote this book to show you sort of a behind the scenes look at what it's like to have that kind of success, also to show you the challenges they face, the temptations they have to deal with, but also the power of God to transform people that have hit rock bottom, most notably Alice Cooper. Alice Cooper at one point in his life was the number one rock star in the world and he became so involved with drugs, specifically cocaine, it looked like surely he was gonna overdose. His wife Cheryl left him, he told me this personally. She left him, he had a rock of cocaine the size of a softball. He put his wife's dresses over the window so no one could see in his house and he started to snort that rock of cocaine and he became so out of it, he looked in the mirror and there was blood coming out of his eyes. Alice said to me, I'm not sure if it was a hallucination or if it was actually happened, but I knew I was going to die. And he said, and it was at that moment I called out to God and God heard my prayer and transformed him. And now when you talk to Alice Cooper today, you can't believe he lived that life.
He's such a transformed person. Let me ask you, in researching the book and writing the book, why do you suppose rock stars, and for that matter, celebrities of all different stripes, why do they seem to self-destruct so often? I think a lot of these folks are damaged goods. So many of them come from broken homes, so many of them come from horrible backgrounds, or they come from horrible poverty or something else, and they want to be noticed. They want their life to matter. They want their life to have meaning. And I think they're actually searching for fulfillment through fame and fortune. They're thinking, if I could one day be famous, if I could one day live in a mansion, if I could one day drive a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari or whatever it is, if I one day had people chanting my name, that would bring happiness. And of course, that's not true.
And they climb to the top of the mountain and they find out there's nothing there. So I think many of them are really just on a search for the meaning of life, but they're born with the talent as a singer, as an actor, as a performer of some kind. And so many of them rocket quickly to the top, and that is like the worst thing that can happen when you don't have a support structure to help you deal with all that adulation, fame, and success, and all that money you make. I mean, I know it's a cliche when we read the stories of these folks that just spend money like crazy and they find themselves bankrupt and in trouble. Well, they're not prepared for that kind of a life.
They just like to sing or they like to perform or they like to do something else. And then they have this incredible success that can be absolutely, in many cases, devastating to them. Let me read something from your book, if I may.
It's in a section talking about prints. And you write, contrary to popular belief, adversity is not the greatest test of character. Overnight success is. Just ask Des Dickerson, who was Prince's dazzling lead guitarist from 78 to 83.
He said this, fame was like this vertical takeoff, and suddenly there are more people around you. Oh, we have roadies now? Oh, we have bodyguards now?
And they're there for a reason, too. We experienced many riots. We couldn't walk down the street, and they had to cordon off the floor of our hotel. What that does to your head is beyond description, and what it does to the human psyche is a whole other thing. There's this internal mechanism that unconsciously begins to take form, and your equilibrium gets so skewed that you find yourself doing and saying things that aren't you. Get this.
You become your own press release. I thought that was very telling. Yeah, that's very insightful, and that's written by someone who knows what they're talking about. And think about Prince himself. I mean, this incredibly talented man died of a drug overdose.
I mean, so many have died of drug overdoses. You would have thought that Prince would have said, hey, my friend Michael Jackson died this way. Hey, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin died this way. Hey, Chester Bennington died this way. He actually took his own life.
I don't want to die that way, but that's exactly how he died. And I think people take drugs to numb the pain because they just don't know how to live with this altered state of reality they find themselves in. They need Jesus. And I think so many people look to these rock stars saying, oh, I wish I was them. No, you should not wish you were them. But you have your challenges.
You have your pressures. And really, Christ is the answer for everyone. He's the answer for the rock star. He's the answer for the unknown person. He's the answer for the billionaire. He's the answer for the person that doesn't have two pennies to rub together. He's the answer for every man, every woman, every boy, every girl, every person. So I've written this book to say no one is beyond the reach of God. Don't stop praying.
Don't give up on these people. You know, I think about electronic dance music DJ Avicii. His real name was Tim Bergling. Avicii had global success. Thousands of people would come to his rave concerts and thought he was the greatest thing ever. But Avicii was a young man who, according to his parents, was searching for peace and the meaning of life. Tragically, he began to drink extensively and his liver was failing and the doctor told him he had to cease and desist from drinking or he would die.
He's still a very young guy. And then he made somewhat of a recovery and retired from his career and then ended up taking his own life in the worst way imaginable. But I think a lot of these guys are searching for peace and meaning. Why are they here on this earth? And really we all are when you get down to it.
Except these people have had all the success this world offers and have realized how empty it is. I explore the lives of a lot of rock stars, past, present, and ones that are emerging on the scene right now. So it's not just about rock music.
It's just about this. Don't take the wrong course in life. Don't think that things will fill that void in your life or a career will do it or success will do it or sex will do it or any other thing. What you really want, what you really need is a relationship with God. And we have a lot of rock stars that we talked to for this book and we interviewed that will tell you that from personal experience. As always, Christ is the answer.
Yeah, yeah, that's right. And by the way, if you want to know more about entering into a relationship with Christ, click on the words Know God at our website, harvest.org. But we're talking with Pastor Greg Laurie today here on A New Beginning about his brand new book, Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. He surveys the lives of several dozen of the musicians and singers that most of us would know very well and shows us their lives ultimately rose or fell on whether they knew the Lord.
And the evidence is overwhelming. It's a fascinating book for anyone, but especially music fans and especially those who think their lives would be so much happier if they only had this or that, you know, money or fame, a big mansion, their dream car, whatever it may be. It's insight they won't get from the culture or social media. Let us send you a copy of this new book, Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. The subtitle is The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll. We'll send it to say thank you for your investment right now, an investment in keeping Pastor Greg's insights coming your way each day, an investment in reaching out with the gospel as we did just a couple of weeks ago in Boise, Idaho. So thank you for your partnership. You can call us at 1-800-821-3300. That's a 24-7 phone number, 1-800-821-3300.
Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, California, 92514. Or go online to harvest.org. You know, there's nothing like hearing the Word of God and worshiping the Lord together. I want to encourage you to join us for something we call Harvest at Home. It happens every Saturday and Sunday at harvest.org. You can join Christians literally from around the world as we worship, and we study the Word of God together. So join us for Harvest at Home at harvest.org. Well, next time, Pastor Greg brings us more insight on the lessons we can learn from the insights he shares in his new book.
In fact, here's just a sample. of living. Here's what the apostle Paul said.
He said to live is Christ. For some people, if they were honest, they would say to live is possessions. Their motto would be he who dies with the most toys wins.
I would just add to that. He who dies with the most toys wins, dot, dot, dot, nothing. Another might say for me to live is success. Well, yes, you can have success, but Jesus said, What is the profit, a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?
Somebody else might say, I live for this other thing. Live for Christ. Put God first. Well, more good encouragement coming next time. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. The preceding podcast was made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. Learn how to become a Harvest Partner, sign up for daily devotions and find resources to help you grow in your faith at harvest.org.
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