When I think of the songs that I have cherished most of my life, or that I listen to over and over, or whose songs I would save in a fire, I credit these songwriters.
- Dolly Parton
- Jackson Browne
- Keith Green
- Jennifer Knapp
- David Gray
- Bob Dylan
- Bebo Norman
- Steven Curtis Chapman
- Jonathon Byrd
- Chris Tomlin & David Crowder
I find it interesting that most of these artists come from the Contemporary Christian genre. I guess the songs that really matter to me are the ones that encourage and inspire me.
I know that there is a whole genre of singer songwriters from the 70’s that I don’t even mention such as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, Neil Young and the rest of them. I didn’t have much exposure to them growing up. When I listen to those songs now I draw no real connection to my personal life experience, so I won’t pander to them here.
As a kid I would listen to Dolly’s songs and paint pictures in my mind. I could feel Annie’s courage grow when the kids made fun of her “coat of many colors.” I can trace my love for storytelling and folklore right to this very song. For it made me want to dig up more songs that told stories, which landed me into the wonderful world of Zora Neale Hurston and my love for folklore.
Shortly after we moved from NYC To Orlando, I was babysitting my brother while Zeta 7 played full albums. I recorded those albums on my dad’s reel to reel hi-fi stereo. They played Jackson Browne’s, The Pretender. I was no different different than most teenagers. I was disillusioned with adults and teachers. My parents fought all the time. I got into fights at school. Boys confused me. I struggled to stay true to my family’s values and our Puerto Rican traditions while living in rural central Florida. Every song in that album, every word in those songs, seemed to be lifted from my own mind and journals. When I had the house to myself, I blasted Daddy’s Tune, The Only Child, and then the Pretender, my life song. If everyone was home, I sang along wearing my dad’s headphones.
I exchanged my Tiger Beat magazine for CREEM and Hit Parade. My Leif Garrett wall was replaced with Jackson Browne, Lindsay Buckingham, Mark Knopfler, Roger Daltrey, Loggins and Messina, Bob Dylan, and James Taylor. I didn’t find their subjects too mature. I may have been 14 at the time, but I got it.
During all that, the Jesus Movement was passing through. Bob Dylan and I found Jesus. It was big news to the music world as it was to my high school. I made quite a mark as a bad girl and most of the kids and teachers didn’t let me forget that. The music magazines blasted Dylan for his Saved album. He said stuff about sin and all. I really didn’t care about the Movement, the church, or conforming to the youth group. I had my own stuff going on. I was hanging onto my faith for dear life and the Christians only made my spiritual rebirth harder.
Then I discovered artist, Keith Green, who had the same church issues I did. Green was quite the Jesus zealot – but in a pure way. He had an urgency for lost souls, hated hypocrites, and intolerance. His songs were confessionals. Green died in a plane crash in the summer of 1982. Together Dylan and I backslid, but our simultaneous journeys through spirit and song is part of my story, so he gets a spot in my top 10.
Jennifer Knapp, salve to my angsty soul, was driven away from the conservative Christian community, as I was in 2002. She walked away from the music industry at the height of her career. Although she moved to Australia and was formally out of the business, her fans continued to buy her records and support her forum community sites. Knapp’s music was always honest about her flaws and reached out to a god that accepted her as she was. During that time, I also sought solace away from the world. She returned with a clear understanding of that and inspired me to also “come out” and speak against the use of religious submission to control and abuse others. We now both have to be who we are. The rest of our “brethren” will just have to get over it! http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/music/interviews/2010/jenniferknapp-apr10.html
During my own hiatus, I discovered Jonathon Byrd, who’s prose, storytelling (River Girl), and humor (95 South and This is the New That) inspired me to write many stories along the very same Haw River he sang about. Like many things that are precious to me, Byrd is undiscovered gem of talent who’s standard of writing and musical arrangements exceed that of pop country folkish music machines.
So while I may not follow the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame formula and include the greats in my list. The above are in my personal hall of fame. I will post a separate GR8MUSICROX Fave Songwriters. Some will make it that list as well.