STEVE TAYLOR–THAT PRINCIPLED MAN
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
One of my sons asked a friend in junior high if he listened to Steve Taylor.
“Who?” his friend responded.
“You don’t know who Steve Taylor is?” He was shocked at his friend’s ignorance.
I had to break it to him that not many people knew who he was talking about, but I raised my boys on Steve Taylor’s music. I don’t regret that one bit.
During the 1980’s, Taylor’s musical creations were considered “Christian alternative rock” music. Later, he added his writing insights to the Newsboys and Sixpence None the Richer. He also helped direct and produce films such as Blue Like Jazz. But his best contributions were those songs from the 80’s. He first caught my attention with his 1985 This Disco Use to Be a Cute Cathedral and especially the 1983 “I Want to Be a Clone.” which described my church experiences quite well. I loved his “Harder to Believe Than Not To” which I actually heard on Christian radio at the time (they seldom played his music), even though he was highly criticized for that album cover I Predict 1990, which some say looked like a tarot card.
Taylor was not afraid to take other Christians to task for their hypocrisy and inconsistencies. He matched this with a satirical, sardonic approach mixed with awesome, artistic abilities. He would also use his voice in amazing ways to reveal both his big heart and his cutting attitude. He wasn’t afraid to slice through the trash in both the Christian and secular cultures of the times. (Sadly, his music videos reflect the technological and artistic limits of the time in which he made them. They take away from the music, in my opinion.)
I thought I might outgrow Taylor as I have many other preferences and ideas, but I can still get pumped just listening to his songs. I wonder if any of his views have changed. I wonder how he would address our political world–he was not afraid to lambast Oliver North’s “I don’t entirely recollect.”) There’s so much material available for him to address.
I recently asked my son which was his favorite Steve Taylor song. He chose two: Easy Listening and Hero. These two songs display Taylor’s wide range of skills and juxtapose his cutting critiques with his vision for a better understanding of spirituality.
As a rhetorician, I love Bannerman, a song about a man who holds up a sign with John 3: 16 at the end zone at football games. For me, this highlights the failed rhetoric of the times, often misunderstood in the church. But Taylor knew. Often criticized for his lyrics by those who did not grasp or appreciate his sarcasm (for example, his song I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good), he took risks. Did they really think he was advocating violence? Few other Christian artists have dared similar risks.
I think I’m just a little bit mad at him for hiding his talents away for a few decades. We sure could use your skills, Steve Taylor.
I’ve watched interviews with Taylor and find him ironically soft-spoken. I discovered his newer music (I know I'm a few years late) Goliath (2014) by Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil and Wow to the Deadness (2016) by Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil. I sent a clip of the song In Layers to my sons, who are now in their 20’s. I like the fact that Taylor is still matching his music to his message. Plus, it’s catchy and I can’t get this song out of my head. The lyrics mirror our culture in which we think that when we call people out, they will stop being jerks, but they just “crank up the noise.”
On March 12, 2016, Taylor tweeted, “If you’re a Christian voting for @realDonaldTrump, you’ve either lost your faith or lost your mind.” As you can imagine, he was criticized for this, but that shouldn’t be anything new to Taylor. That’s the Steve Taylor his fans love and admire. Modern Christianity lost an opportunity during the 1980’s and afterward. With the televangelists’ scandals and the false sense of spirituality, they never fully embraced Taylor’s cutting critiques to learn from them. Had they listened, the church could be in a much better place today. Instead, we ignore our true artists.
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