Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 24, 2016 and has been revised.
As a young teen, I became a huge fan of the rock group, Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young). I was such a dedicated admirer that I even began exploring the back-catalogs of the members’ previous bands, including David Crosby’s stint with the Byrds. I eventually became a bigger fan of the Byrds than CS&N.
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 had seen the writing on the wall with the rising tide of Beatlemania and attempted to make the switch to rock ‘n’ roll. Their resulting sound, with the instantly-identifiable, jingle-jangle of McGuinn’s Rickenbacker twelve-string electric guitar and Crosby’s high vocal 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 and influential, but the band’s popularity gradually waned as rock music began drifting 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 McGuinn and his hired hands continued to release albums and tour as the Byrds until 1973 when he disbanded the group to begin his solo career.
At the peak of the Byrd’s popularity, McGuinn, a former Roman Catholic, began dabbling in Subud, a form of Eastern religiosity, and subsequently 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 theme, which no doubt reflected McGuinn’s restless 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 ‘n’ roll lifestyle and McGuinn was a regular imbiber. 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 to himself, “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 and disappointing stuff. Little did I know that the Holy Spirit was using McGuinn’s conversion, along with many other people and things, to also prod me along. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior six years later in 1983.
McGuinn’s witness continued to affect my life. Five years ago (2015), I was reading an online article in which Roger described how he and his wife had a daily devotion time together, during which they read a Psalm, a Proverb, and a chapter from the Old and New Testaments and prayed. My wife and I had never had a daily devotion time together. I suggested it to my wife and she gladly agreed and it’s been a huge blessing in our lives ever since!
At the age of 78, Roger continues to tour and delight audiences. Nobody plays the twelve-string quite like him.