Chris Hillman: 'Turn, Turn, Turn'
By Cheryl Wilcox
The 700 Club
CBN.com- Scott Ross recently spoke with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, guitarist Chris Hillman.
Chris remembers, “My mother said, ‘I’ll make you a deal. I’ll help you get the first guitar. If you stick with it, I’ll help you get another one.’ We got a $10 guitar in Tijuana.”
Legendary guitarist Chris Hillman will go down in contemporary music history as a pioneer of country rock. That’s quite a return on his mom’s saw buck. “I had a passion, like everybody my age we had this passion.”
When Chris was 19, he went from performing in local California coffee houses to playing bass for a new group with a unique sound -- the Byrds. “What made the Byrds really unique was that we didn’t know what we were doing and we were going off of our old acoustic roots. It just worked. No blueprint.”
Scott: “When it did hit for you, were you surprised?”
“I couldn’t measure it at 19 years old, the impact or what it would yield. But I had a feeling, because there was something very special about the way that Crosby, McGuinn and Gene Clark sang. I heard this magic that they did, so I knew something was going to happen. But, it just fell into place.”
The Byrds branded folk-rock and recorded a string of hits in their four years together. These musicians helped define the 1960’s.
But Chris had dark memories that success couldn’t block out. “My father committed suicide when I was 16. He had run into trouble financially. It wasn’t like I had an abusive father, had this great guy. And I was angry. ‘How dare he do that to his family!’”
Scott: “In the midst of all this, did you buy into the Rock and Roll lifestyle?”
“I bought into it, but not to the degree that some of my dear friends did.” Chris continues, “I made some bad choices in the Rock and Roll lifestyle, believe me. But I never crossed that line. A lot of my friends, the music became secondary as a career. The pursuit of pleasure became the career.”
Chris met a girl, Connie that intrigued him. “And here I was, not living exactly an exemplary life as a human being, certainly not a Christian yet. But I dated Connie and for some reason, she was the most precious thing that I treated with the utmost of respect. Meaning, when we went on a date, it as to the movies and a kiss on the cheek. Okay? Now go figure that.”
But Chris and Connie drifted apart and didn’t see each other again until the mid 1970’s. Meanwhile Chris played and recorded with a number of bands. “But there was something inside of me that was struggling to get out because it was coming out on a sub-conscious level in my songs.”
Scott: “Of course, you had done, in the Byrds you had done Turn Turn Turn which is Ecclesiastes. That’s Pete Seeger.”
“Exactly. We did a Louvin Brothers song, I love the Christian Life. And at the time I don’t think we really – I think we probably looked at it, in all honesty, tongue-in-cheek. And even the Burrito Brothers, we wrote a song, Sin City and ‘Satan was waiting his turn.’”
Life imitated art. When a band member led Chris to the Lord, other forces soon pulled him in the opposite direction. “I accepted Jesus in a moment of real doubt and fear’, and then of course, when things got level, I walked away from it.”
Scott Ross: “What turned you back then to Jesus?”
Not “What” but “Who”. In the mid 70’s, Chris ran into Connie again. Their four-year courtship led to marriage. Connie was a Christian who had been raised in the Greek Orthodox Church.
“Connie had to put up with some tough things. I don’t know how she did it. She prayed.”
“I knew that I was just not on the right road. I just heard the voice. I remember sitting in the garage and just bursting into tears. And that was it. And I went ‘Oh my Lord.’ And then I accepted Him, truly accepted Him, and proceeded to embrace the Church and start learning. And learning means, I picked up the Bible and started going to church and was baptized.”
Chris says Jesus brought a deeper healing to his broken heart. “One day I am at my brother’s house and he pulls out this old footage - 8 mm footage - of my dad on the beach when we were kids. There’s my dad, picking me up, holding me, kissing me, hugging me. And that did it. I just – I broke down in tears. You know, and-and that’s where I forgave him that day. The anger went away.”
Chris and Connie have been married more than 30 years. They have the kind of love for Christ, and each other that is deep and true. They are devout Greek Orthodox believers. “I love the tradition. I love that it was in the history of the faith, the very first church. The apostles went out, the five patriarchs and started up the ministry.”
Musically, Chris has been performing, recording and songwriting for almost 50 years. He gives college lectures on his craft, and is one of the most celebrated members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “I’m so blessed I have a great – I mean, once again a just – is an unbelievable woman in my life, Connie,
Scott: “You’re a graced man.”
Chris: “I’m very blessed, Scott.”
Scott: “And you’re turning around and blessing others with what God taught you.”
Chris: “Thank you.”
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