It doesn't matter the genre or the generation they come from - the life of a rock star is often debaucherous, and more than a few famous musicians have fallen prey to questionable lifestyles. This is why it can be surprising to learn about popular musicians who converted to Christianity. In fact, Cross Rhythms editor Tony Cummings recalled a time when "all these books from evangelicals were appearing denouncing the music of heavy rock bands like Iron Maiden, Anthrax, and Megadeth as 'satanic.'" Many of these rock stars have since used their platform to share the gospel.
There are plenty of religious rock stars performing to major audiences today, and rather than turn in fame and fortune for humility and prayer, they seek to balance the stage and their faith. Music fans may be shocked to discover which stars are low-key Christians. Other musicians expectedly imbue their songs with religious themes. From notable rappers like Kanye West to hard rock stars like Foreigner's Lou Gramm and Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner, these musicians explain why they became Christian and when.
Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine and bassist Dave Ellefson both found Christ midway throughout their careers. Mustaine, however, says he doesn't follow any set practice; instead, he says he has a "relationship" with Jesus Christ but does not believe in organized religion.
Mustaine grew up a Jehovah's Witness and had a dalliance with satanism before nerve damage in his arm threatened his career. It was then that he turned to God, but it hasn't always been an easy road. In 2019, Mustaine was diagnosed with throat cancer, and says his faith has kept him strong:
God knows that... I have been at times inconsistent in following a Christian way of life. I am not an extremist. I am not a fundamentalist. I have lapsed in ways large and small. I curse. I do not always exercise the patience and tolerance I should. But I believe in God and I believe that Jesus is my savior, and those are the overriding principles that guide my life.
Al Green was at the top of the charts when he left fame behind and became a follower of Christ. Of his conversion, he wrote, "Black people in America have always been torn between walking with Jesus and wandering in the world, clear back to the times of slavery when we either cried out in captivity by singing the blues or held out for a better hope by singing spirituals."
In 1973, Green was booked solid for a tour to promote his latest album Call Me when he encountered the Holy Spirit in his hotel room. He recalls feeling like his life was not his own while he was on the road because of how many people were dependent on his success, but his encounter with the Lord changed his perspective.
Green began performing in hospitals and correctional facilities as a form of charity, and he met Mary Woodson in one such facility. She later left her husband and children to be with Green. One night in 1974, she threw a pan of hot grits at him before ending her own life. While recovering from his burns and his loss, Green further devoted himself to God and eventually bought the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, Tennessee, where he still preaches as of 2019.
Tales of theatrical rocker Alice Cooper's dalliances with the devil are legendary - and made for the stage. Despite the many stories, Cooper is the son of a pastor and grew up in the Christian church. As he encountered fame, however, he strayed "as far away as [he] could," and it took almost losing his life for him to rediscover his faith.
While at the peak of his career, Cooper depended on alcohol so heavily that it nearly ended him. It wasn't until he was sober that he once again reconnected with his Christian faith. Today, he still tours solo and with his supergroup the Hollywood Vampires, but his off hours are spent at church and Bible study.
As for his shock-rock persona, Alice is still Alice: "There's nothing in Christianity that says I can't be a rock star. People have a very warped view of Christianity. They think it's all very precise and we never do wrong and we're praying all day and we're right-wing. It has nothing to do with that."
With hits like "I Want to Know What Love Is," "Hot Blooded," and "Cold as Ice" at the top of the charts throughout the '70s and '80s, Lou Gramm of Foreigner had the world of rock at his feet. Attaining fame and fortune, however, was not enough for Gramm, and he began to seek meaning in divine power.
Gramm explored a multitude of different faiths before he found what he was looking for at a non-denominational Christian church in his hometown of Rochester, New York, in the late '80s. He recalled:
I really found what I was looking for, a real "come as you are" type of attitude, really steeped in the Word, and the Scriptures and the teachings that are applicable to today’s life and the world that we’re living in now.
...I think that everything I had been through up to that point in my life led me up to where I finally made the commitment and accepted [Jesus] as my Lord and my Savior, instead of just a part time, "get me out of trouble" God. I think that’s where the difference lies.
Grand Funk Railroad spawned classics like "We're An American Band," "Some Kind of Wonderful," and "I'm Your Captain." Lead guitarist Mark Farner recalls forming the three-piece band in his youth.
Farner lost his father at a young age and eventually found God while watching evangelist Billy Graham give a sermon on TV. As he grew older, Farner became consumed with his rock 'n' roll lifestyle and walked away from his faith.
He says it took his wife Leisha leaving him for him to remember how religion comforted him when he lost his dad. The day he found a church that suited him, he says Leisha was "in a city 50 miles away... asking the Lord into her heart for the very first time." Today the couple is "striving together."
Farner described what it was like to lose his family in 1983:
I was watching my kids play in the living-room, and I was about halfway through a 12-pack, and I just recalled how my mother turned to alcohol after my dad [passed], and how the kids suffered as a result of it.
I got into this little church, and even with my long hair, my headband, my Hawaiian shirt, and faded jeans and sneakers, they loved me - these people really showed me the love of Christ.
Journey's Jonathan Cain was brought up Catholic, and his parents often joked that his faith was so unshakable that they saw him becoming a priest one day. After surviving a school fire that took the lives of 92 of his classmates, however, Cain became disillusioned with God. He put his passion toward music, went on to sell millions of records, and toured the world.
He ultimately returned to his faith when he had children, saying, "I wanted to lead them to the Lord and show them who God was, and through that process, the healing began. And I began to get closer and closer and get more centered in my faith and worship."
Cain married evangelist Paula White in 2015. White is Donald Trump's spiritual adviser, and the couple also leads a congregation at City of Destiny in Apopka, Florida. Cain has released several Christian rock albums and continues to tour with Journey.