Writers in many disciplines and across the ages have described experiencing a divine presence through music. “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul,” Martin Luther wrote, according to The Life of Luther Written by Himself. “It is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” Some 500 years later, outspoken religious skeptic Kurt Vonnegut requested, in his final collection of essays, A Man Without a Country, “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.’”
The coming months bring new books that examine the many ways music and faith continue to intersect. Authors include a hip-hop artist and yogi who gained spiritual insight through performing, teaching, and headlining festivals, and a devout, destitute musician who finally found success at age 62.
Don’t Stop Believin’
Cain, who has spent more than three decades as a keyboardist and songwriter for the band Journey, shares stories from his personal and professional life, including the childhood experience that rattled his faith and went on to shape his music career and his relationship with God. Journey fans will be especially interesting in his insider’s look at the history of the band and discussion of the inspiration behind hits including “Faithfully” and the song referenced by the memoir’s title, famously used in the final scene of the Sopranos.
Going Down to the River
With help from syndicated columnist Eubanks, singer/songwriter Seegers reflects on his experiences with addiction, homelessness, and loneliness, before he was discovered by a Swedish musician outside of a food pantry at age 62. The book chronicles Seegers’ prayers to God, his journey toward sobriety, and his rise to stardom with “Going Down to the River,” a song that topped the Swedish iTunes charts in 2014.
The Great Unknown
Houston, a pastor at Hillsong Church and the lead singer of Hillsong United, offers a glimpse into his personal struggles and describes how his spiritual evolution inspired many of the worship band’s songs, including the hit “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).” The book highlights the importance of what Houston calls “child-like trust in God” despite fear and insecurity about the unknown.
The Monk’s Record Player
Hudson, who has made a scholarly study of the works of Bob Dylan, explores the link between songs and spirituality in this parallel biography of Dylan and Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and writer. The book, which focuses on the summer of 1966, sheds light on the solace Dylan’s music brought to Merton when a secret romance threatened to end his career in the monastery.
The author grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1990s amid drugs and gang violence, then discovered meditation and yoga after just barely graduating from high school. In his memoir, the hip-hop artist and co-owner of Yoga Toes studio in Northern California describes his experiences with loss, love, and how ancient Indian teachings helped him find his calling as an artist and a yoga teacher.
British vocalist Beeching, who came out as gay in 2014 at age 35, reflects on her more than 20 years in Christian music, the decision to go public with her sexuality, and how her role as a worship leader changed as a result of that disclosure in this memoir, which takes its title from one of her songs.
The author, who with her husband, Michael, is part of the Grammy-nominated gospel duo Gungor, delves into her lifelong love of music, the challenges of raising a child with special needs, and how heartbreak can lead to a deeper faith. As Gungor relates in the book, after experiencing periods of depression and doubt about God, she discovered another side of her pain and a new way to look at her life.
Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?
Larry Norman, who died in 2008, is widely considered to be the first Christian rock star, rising to fame in the late ’1960s after being on tour with Janis Joplin and the Doors and then choosing to sing about Jesus. Thornbury, the president of the King’s College, a Christian institution in New York City, examines Norman’s desire to blend quality art with his Christian beliefs, as well as the influence his music had on Evangelical culture.