Keith Green: Christian Music Legend
Keith Green: His Music, Ministry, and Legacy
My mom hung up the phone and broke into tears. She had just heard the news of Keith Green's death. I was only ten on that summer day in 1982, but the memory is still clear. It felt almost like a death in the family. We often listened to Keith Green's music and it has permeated deep into me. Even now when I read the story of the prodigal son, I hear his "Prodigal Son Suite" in my mind. I can't read about the Israelites wandering in the desert without chuckling over his goofy manna improvisation in "So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt" (Ba-manna Bread!). Even now, about three decades later, Keith Green is one of the most-played artists in my iTunes library. My kids and I dance to his "Scripture Song Medley." Every Easter, I play "The Easter Song" and "The Victor" as soon as I wake up. Read on for more about Keith Green's music, his ministry and his enduring legacy.
Ever heard of Keith Green?
Before landing here, had you heard of Keith Green?
The Victor - My Easter Morning Tradition
Melody Green has announced that a feature film about Keith Green's life is in the works.
Keith Green Discography
Keith gave away his albums, through mail order, for the price of "whatever you can afford." If I recall, there was a suggested price of seven dollars. When his casettes were sold in Christian book and record stores, they were often in a two pack--one to keep and one to give to a friend. Here is his discography. Unfortunately, you can't get the albums for free any more.
For Him Who Has Ears to Hear - Released in May 1977
While Keith Green had released some music as a child (at one time he was being groomed to be a child pop star) and had worked with other Christian artists like Second Chapter of Acts, this was first solo offering as a Christian musician. "You Put This Love in My Heart" is my favorite track, and now my kids love it too since it has been covered by the Veggie Tales characters on their worship album.
When I Hear the Praises Start - Another Favorite from "For Him Who Has Ears to Hear"
No Compromise - Released in November 1978
No Compromise, Keith Green's second Christian album is named after a line from "Make My Life a Prayer to You," a song written by his wife, Melody. That's my favorite song on this album. A close second is "Asleep in the Light," which is a hard-hitting call for the church to do more to reach the world with the gospel. "Jesus rose from the dead, and you can't even get out of bed." Ouch.
Make My Life a Prayer to You - My favorite track from "No Compromise"
So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt - Released in May 1980
This album marks two significant changes for Keith Green. One is that he had just bought out his contract from Sparrow Records so that he could implement his "whatever you can afford" pricing plan for his music. The other is his deeper understanding and sharing of God's grace. He still sang the challenging songs from earlier albums, but added to them such numbers as "Unless the Lord Builds the House" and "Grace by Which I Stand." My favorite song from this album is "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful."
Oh Lord, You're Beautiful - My favorite from "So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt"
A rough version of the classic worship song. This was recorded live the same week Keith Green wrote it. The lyrics changed a lot between this recording and the album.
Songs for the Shepherd - Released in April 1982
This was the last album Keith Green released before he died. It is mostly worship songs and includes a beautiful version of the old hymn, "Holy Holy Holy." My favorite lines on the album come from the song, "There Is a Redeemer."
"When I stand in glory
I will see His face
And there I'll serve my King forever
In that holy place.
There Is a Redeemer
I can't think of a better worship song to the triune God. "Thank you O my Father for giving us your Son, and leaving your Spirit till the work on earth is done."
The Prodigal Son - Released in August 1983
This is the first album of Keith Green's music released after his death. Opening with "I Can't Wait to Get to Heaven" and closing with "Song for Josiah" (Josiah was one of Keith's children who died with him in the plane crash), this album is a poignant reminder of how brief life on earth is and of the joy that awaits in heaven.
I Can't Wait to Get to Heaven - Released not long after Keith Green's death
"Thoughts of heaven somehow seem to fil my mind. But I can't even imagine what it is I'm going to find."
Jesus Commands Us to Go! - Released in July 1984
Another posthumous release, this album highlights Keith Green's keen interest near the end of his life in challenging Christians to support or participate in global missions. My favorite song on this album is "Run to the End of the Highway."
Jesus Commands Us to Go! - A challenging track from the album of the same name
Other Keith Green Albums - Compilations with some live and previously unreleased music
"The Keith Green Collection," released in 1981, is composed of previously released material except for "Rushing Wind," "The Sheep and the Goats," and "Scripture Song Medley." I challenge you to listen to the medley without smiling or dancing.
"I Only Want to See You There, " released in 1983, is mostly previously released material with a few live tracks. My favorite track from this album is the live version of "If You Love the Lord." This album is hard to find these days.
"The Ministry Years" is a two volume set of two CDs each. They cover Keith Green's music from 1977 to 1979, and from 1980 to 1982, respectively. They contain five previously unreleased songs, none of which, to be honest, particularly impress me. Still, these two albums make a fine and fairly thorough introduction to Keith Green for people who don't have his other albums.
"The Greatest Hits," released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Keith Green's death, contains 18 tracks including a previously unreleased live version of "He'll Take Care of the Rest" and a new song called "Your Love Came Over Me," a nice rock number.
"The Live Experience" contains 16 live recordings from TV appearances, concerts and festivals.
The Ultimate Collection - If you could only have one Keith Green album, this is the one.
This album has 18 of Keith Green's best songs from his five years or so of recording. It also comes with a DVD about his life and ministry. Did you know that he rented several homes in his southern California neighborhood as shelters and halfway houses for addicts, unwed mothers, and the homeless? You'll learn that and more from the DVD.
Of course if you could have two Keith Green albums, go with the two double disc volumes of "The Ministry Years." They contain everything from his major albums and a few other songs.
Keith Green Sheet Music - Play and sing great worship music.
Many of Keith Green's songs are surprising simple to play on guitar or piano. For some reason the amazon listings on the sheet music don't say what songs the books contain. You can look at the discography above to see which songs come from which albums, or just get the two volumes of "MInistry Years." They have most all of his songs, including all the more well known ones.
Keith Green Tribute Albums - Covers of Keith Green Songs
Today's Christian musicians recognize Keith Green as a pioneer, almost a legend in the genre. Many have covered his songs and to date, three tribute albums have been released.
"No Compromise: Remembering the Music of Keith Green" was released in 1993. Well-known contemporary Christian artists cover their favorite Keith Green songs. My two favorite songs are "You Are the One" performed by Rich Mullins, and "Make My Life a Prayer to You," performed by Melody Green, who actually wrote the song for her husband to perform. This album is hard to find these days, but you can buy it at iTunes. See below.
"Start Right Here: Remembering the Life of Keith Green," released in 2001, contains covers by Christian alternative and techno artists.
"Your Love Broke Through," released in 2002, is a tribute album by contemporary Christian artists and worship leaders. "Lord, I'm Gonna Love You," performed by Chris Tomlin, and "Make My Life a Prayer to you" performed by Matt Redman, are gems.
There are too many Keith Green covers out there for me to discuss here (even if I knew about them all), but I mentioned the Veggie Tales version of "You Put This Love in My Heart" above, so check out the preview below!
Keith Green's Articles and Sermons
Last Days Magazine
In addition to recording and performing music, Keith Green and his wife, Melody, ran Last Days Ministries, a ministry that, among other endeavors, published Last Days Newsletter (later renamed Last Days Magazine). It featured original content from the Greens and their network of friends, as well as reprints of sermons and essays from generations past.
One Last Days Magazine article I remember reading was about honesty in the little things. The author (I think it was Keith Green but can't remember for sure) suggested that people who cheat and steal in small ways refrain from cheating and stealing in big ways not because of conscience but because the potential shame and punishment are worse. Last Days Ministries ceased operations for a while but is active again now under the leadership of Melody Green. Many of the old articles are available on the web site.
Visit Last Days Ministries Online
No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green - Biography by His Wife, Melody
I enjoy reading as much or more as the next guy, which is to say that it generally takes a week or two to get through a book. I read this 400+ page biography in one long sitting, stopping to eat but not to sleep. I finished it early in the morning. It's that good of a book.
Melody Green drew on her own conversations and experiences with her husband, as well as from his detailed journal entries to write this intimate biography. The most recent edition (which I have not read) is updated with "new photos, essays from current musicians who were influenced by Keith, selections from Keith's private journal, and stories about what it was like raising their two remaining children on her own." (from the amazon.com editorial review)
Web Event on the 28th Anniversary of Keith Green's Death
Keith Green died at age 28 on July 28, 1982. On July 28, 2010 (28 years later) a live web event (called 28.28.28) was broadcast from University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii. It featured concert and speaking footage of Keith Green as well as live speakers, including melody Green, and worship in Hawaii. The event is archived on vimeo.com in three parts.
Keith Green 28.28.28 part 1
Keith Green 28.28.28 Part 2
Keith Green 28.28.28 Part 3
If you were already a Keith Green fan, I hope this page stirred up some good memories. If you are new to his music and ministry, I encourage you to explore Keith Green's music and check out some of his articles at lastdaysministires.com.
Please join the conversation. Do you have a favorite Keith Green quote or song? A memory from a concert? Comments about this page? Here's the place to share!">