In my previous post I referred to the less-than-auspicious track record of America’s self-proclaimed town criers, Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I mentioned the trio came from successful bands; Crosby from The Byrds, Stills from Buffalo Springfield, and Nash from The Hollies. As a huge fan of CSN, I began going back and listening to the music of The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. In this post I’d like to focus a little bit on The Byrds and another member of that band.
The Byrds came together in 1964 with Jim McGuinn on lead guitar and vocals, Gene Clark on vocals, David Crosby on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Hillman on bass, and Michael Clarke on drums. They were all folk musicians who saw the writing on the wall with the rising tide of Beatlemania and attempted to make the switch to rock and roll. Their resulting sound, with McGuinn’s trademark jingle-jangle twelve-string and Crosby’s high harmonies, was a unique blend of folk and rock; a synthesis of Bob Dylan and John Lennon.
The Byrds’ first two albums were wildly successful but the band’s popularity gradually waned as rock drifted toward a “heavier” sound. Over the years band members came and went and by 1968 McGuinn (pronounced mik-gwin) remained as the only founding member. But the Byrds continued to release albums and tour until 1973 when McGuinn disbanded the group to begin his solo career.
At the peak of The Byrd’s popularity, McGuinn, a former Catholic, began dabbling in Eastern religiosity and changed his first name from Jim to Roger in 1967 as part of his initiation. The Byrds’ recorded repertoire included a large number of songs with a spiritual dimension and no doubt reflected McGuinn’s spiritual search: Turn! Turn! Turn!, 5D, I Am A Pilgrim, The Christian Life, Oil in My Lamp, Jesus Is Just Alright, Glory Glory, and Farther Along.
Drugs were a staple of the rock and roll lifestyle and McGuinn was a regular dabbler. By 1977 heavy drug use had brought McGuinn to the lowest point in his life. Elvis Presley’s drug-induced death in August of that year was a wake up call. McGuinn thought, That could have easily been me. The Holy Spirit was working in McGuinn’s life and after talking with some Christian friends, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Being a huge Byrds fan at the time (and currently still) I thought McGuinn’s acceptance of Christ and becoming one of those “born-agains” was some very strange stuff. Little did I know the Holy Spirit was using McGuinn’s decision for Christ along with many other people and things to also prod me along. I accepted Jesus six years later.
McGuinn’s witness is still affecting my life. Twelve months ago I was reading a 2004 online article (see here) in which Roger described how he and his wife read a Psalm, a Proverb, and a chapter from the Old and New Testaments and prayed together every day. My wife and I had never done a daily devotion together. I suggested it to my wife and she gladly agreed and it’s been a huge blessing in our lives!
At the age of 73, Roger continues to tour and delight audiences. Nobody plays the twelve-string quite like him.
Coming up I have a few more CSN/Byrds/Buffalo Springfield-related testimonies to tell you about. Be blessed!