Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Charlie Peacock - Kingdom Prodding

  • 2000 15 Feb
Charlie Peacock - Kingdom Prodding

{{Charlie Peacock}}has never become a Christian pop star. Still, his career has spanned almost every possible aspect of music, fanning out in a rainbow of colors, much like the feathers of the bird that shares his last name. He's a writer, performer, player, producer, label head, A&R director and speaker. Now with his first published book (At The Crossroads: An Insider's look at the past, present and future of contemporary Christian Music) he is also an author. I had a chance to sit down with Peacock at the Cornerstone Festival, where he was invited to speak. For many, this was the very place where he made his initial and lasting impression upon enthralled music fans, back in the '80s.

If you were there, you'll never forget seeing this diminutive singer with the frail, yet soulful voice. His songs were pop-sounding enough to appeal to mainstream audience, yet literate in a way that caught the attention of even the most diehard alternative music fan.

Many of us thought (hoped) that this man represented the future of Christian music. There had never been one so smart and melodic. So tender, yet tough. He was the pied piper prepared to lead Christian music out of its middle-of-the-road doldrums. Or so we once believed.

Sure, Peacock signed with a big label (Sparrow) and made many fine albums. But while his albums satisfied his small but loyal garden of fans, his name never truly caught on with the larger mainstream.

Instead, he impacted the culture through his songwriting ("Every Heartbeat," a hit for {{Amy Grant}}) and by way of his production prowess. He's worked with everyone from {{Margaret Becker}} to {{Out of the Grey}} to {{Avalon}}. Not exactly the kinds of artists who - while nonetheless talented - could produce the kind of revolution we'd expected from Peacock.

Contrary to our expectations, Peacock did more listening than talking. More observing, than acting out. And because of the perspective he gained from this close range encounter with the gears that move a music scene, he's been able to stand back and watch Christian music's swift evolution. These observations are caught not only in his recent book, but in an accompanying CD titled ==Kingdom Come==. Although his new recording is not strictly a soundtrack to his book, these two expressions address many of the same issues.

While time has allowed Peacock to reveal many of the diverse colors of his personality throughout his years within the Christian music culture, he probably never could have foreseen the path that would lead a young musician to where he's at now.

In the very beginning, his newfound faith turned this established performer's repertoire upside down. "I was a club performer of original music the rock music scene in Northern California, who was led to Christ by another musician. The Holy Spirit indwelling me began to urge me towards making changes in my music -- as far as the lyrical content. So, some of the songs got dropped, and some lyrics were changed. And I began to write new songs that represented this life-changing event. It was all in the context of being a club musician who was popular in the area, and had a large following."

Like many musicians who come from the secular side of the pond before moving into Christian music, Peacock was almost completely unaware of any Christian music scene. It was only after Christians began picking up upon the changes in his music that he realized what else was going on out there. "It was really through the responses of other Christians finding out that this hometown celebrity had become born again," recalls Peacock, "that I found out there was anything like contemporary Christian music, or even at the time, a kind of budding subculture of the subculture, with alternative music, or what would become modern rock."

Although many of Christian music's proponents had nothing but the best intentions, the music and art they produced just wasn't up to Peacock's high standards. "I browsed in a Christian bookstore, and I bought maybe two albums. But they were really dreadful, so I just never went back."

But while the music he found may have disappointed him, a small piece of literature ended up having the complete opposite affect, by inspiring him. It was a little pamphlet by Francis Schaeffer that explored art and the Bible. "That both confirmed things that I thought as I read the Scripture, and it opened up my mind to a whole other world."

Soon, Peacock was hanging out and recording with other like-minded musicians, such as the {{77's}}, {{Vector}} and other acts signed to a small independent label called Exit, which at the time, was distributed by Word Records.

Peacock, who after all these years is finally preparing to enter the seminary, had never actually planned to devote so much of his life to Christian music. "I was just having my band out in the clubs, and looking around trying to find a Bible college to go to or something, because I had always assumed that [my music life] would eventually come to a close, perhaps, and I would become a pastor."

An unspoken plan of becoming a pastor has almost always been a forgone conclusion throughout Peacock's life - even before he made his definitive commitment to Christ. "It's been on my mind since I was probably 14 years old. I walked the aisle with my mom, when she had become a Christian, and had explained the gospel to me."

Peacock had the seeds of the gospel planted during his early teen years, but it would take quite a while for these seeds to truly take root and grow. "I basically believed in God, and believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but I didn't know the nature of sin, though, or that I needed a savior."

What followed, was a decade long interruption in Peacock's Christian walk, which led him far away from the safety of that aisle he'd once walked with his mother. "Not long after that, I discovered young love, and eventually - for about 10 years - went the way of the world."

Had Peacock not found his way back to the narrow road, he probably wouldn't have accomplished all of the various tasks he has now completed within Christian music. In fact, he paints an even bleaker picture than that of one who doesn't quite reach his full potential. "I'd have probably been dead," he states flatly. "I think there's no question about that. From drugs and alcohol, I hit bottom when I was 24 years old. I was where it takes many people 25 years to get to. I just had ferocious substance abuse habits. It completely undid me, to the point where I was just living out of cardboard boxes."

In addition to the drugs and alcohol, Peacock also fell under the influence of a lot of what he calls anti-Christian sentiment. Much of this thinking was drawn from the kinds of books he was reading back then, such as the writings of the Beat poets. Nevertheless, though they had a negative affect upon his spirituality at the time, these influences caused him to want to become a writer; a desire even greater than any goal of becoming a musician, like his father before him. In retrospect, though, this hankering to write sheds much needed light upon why he's now a published writer.

But before he could get to the point of actually writing his book, Peacock had live out the experiences he would eventually write about. Since Peacock came out of the club scene, instead of the established church, his label expected him to take his newfound Christian beliefs right back into those same clubs, and reach those folks for Christ. Although this plan made sense on paper, in retrospect, it wasn't really the plan God had for him.

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