When musician Keith Green died in a plane crash on July 28, 1982, the world lost a special man whose heart was aflame with the gospel message. Before his untimely end, Green took the world on his seven-year spiritual journey. He held back nothing and was consumed with loving Christ and the church.
On October 21, 1953, Keith Green was born into musical talent. His maternal grandfather was a songwriter and his mother studied voice at Carnegie Hall. By five years old, Green played the ukulele and began formal music lessons. He was writing his own music by age 9. Two years later, Green signed with Decca Records. Time magazine called Green a “pre-pubescent dreamboat” who “croons in a voice trembling with conviction.” He was the youngest member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and played on The Jack Benny Show and The Joey Bishop Show. Green was on the cusp of pop music success until he was displaced by another budding teen idol, Donny Osmond.
After a troubled youth, he married singer/songwriter Melody Steiner in 1973. They struggled to financially and spiritually sought after the meaning of life. Growing up in the drug-induced, anti-establishment ‘60s era led them both to reject organized religion and dabble in eastern mysticism.
Green discovered Christ in the mid-70s. As he attended church and delved deeper into the Bible, Green was increasingly troubled by the hypocrisy of Christians. He longed to reach people through his music and drive them back to holiness. With vocals like Cat Stevens and the piano talent of Elton John, Green recorded his first album in 1977, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear on Sparrow Records. The album, produced by Bill Maxwell, was a commercial success. It later earned the No. 5 spot in CCM’s Greatest Albums in Christian Music. Hits like “Your Love Broke Through” (co-written by friend Randy Stonehill) and “You Put This Love in My Heart” encapsulated Green’s relationship with Jesus. It also had 2nd Chapter of Acts’ “Easter Song.” That same year the Greens started Last Days Ministries with a newsletter that reached 22,000 people.
No Compromise came in November of 1978. “Asleep in the Light,” a radio hit, drove home Green’s conviction for the hypocrites in the church. Penning his most confrontational lyrics, he sang: “Jesus rose from the dead / And you can’t even get out of bed.” Green also mourned the lost souls he encountered in Los Angeles in “How Can They Live Without Jesus.”
Green released So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt in 1980. The title track is a light-hearted view of the little things that become obstacles in the Christian walk. He also sang the worshipful “Oh Lord You’re Beautiful” and an ode to laying down his possessions in “Pledge My Head to Heaven.” Green refused to let money be an obstacle in spreading the gospel. His third album sold 200,000 copies, and most of his albums were given away at concerts.
The last album Green ever co-produced was 1982’s Songs for the Shepherd. Stepping away from convicting the wayward Christian, Songs for the Shepherd was 12 tracks of praise and worship to God including “How Majestic Is Thy Name” and “You Are the One.” The eerily titled “Until the Final Day” showed a weary but faithful Green crying out for God’s strength. The “final day” came all too soon when he and two of his young children lost their lives just three months after its release.
Maxwell produced and released two posthumous albums, The Prodigal Son and Jesus Commands Us to Go. In 2001, Green was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame along with Jesus rocker Larry Norman. His wife actively maintains Last Day Ministries. Melody wrote her husband’s biography in 1989 from his journal entries. It was appropriately titled “No Compromise.” It revealed the meaning Green found in his life, which he summed up as: “I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy or to sell out more completely to Jesus!"
Courtesy of Last Day Ministries
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