Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
By Steve Stockman
Richie Furay is a rock ‘n roll legend. His name is written all over the history of the genre and in 1997 he was inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. Along with Neil Young and Stephen Stills he formed Buffalo Springfield, a groundbreaking band in the late ‘60’s who sadly imploded on take off, just two albums in. While Young went on to an enigmatic and eclectic solo career that has him still cutting it thirty five years later and Stills formed the biggest American act in the early ‘70’s, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Furay formed Poco, forerunners to the much more commercially successful Eagles who nicked many Poco members throughout the ‘70’s.
Poco invited Gram Parsons to join them at one stage and were a solid foundation stone in the whole new country thing that Parsons became the figurehead of and that the Eagles would so readily exploit. Furay’s disappointment at their commercial success may have been the cause of his leaving to form the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band, an attempt to duplicate the supergroup success of Crosby Stills and Nash. Two albums in and Furay was bandless again. In the latter years of the ‘70’s he released three solo albums of which special mention must go to I’ve Got a Reason, which saw Furay at the helm of his destiny for the very first time in his career.
I’ve Got a Reason (recently made available on CD for the first time along with I Still Have Dreams, and Dance a Little Light) also revealed Furay’s new found spiritual interest, having found Jesus as a reason through his friendship with the legendary pedal steelplayer Al Perkins. That new found faith would eventually lead Furay to where he is today, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Boulder, Colorado. Not that he has left the music behind as some Satanic thing from his past. He rejoined Poco for the Reunion album in 1990 and still dabbles and jams when some of his old friends come to town. He has also released a praise and worship album which has all the hallmarks of his Poco days; great playing, beautiful harmonies and a country rock sensibility, giving hymn writing a whole new slant. Pioneering again!
It should be noted that I’ve Got a Reason was also a pioneering piece of work. Not many Christian artists in the mid-’70’s were able to make general marketplace albums about life and humanity with spirituality so naturally woven into the songs; cringe free Christian art!
In one of the honors of my life and the biggest scoop in the short history of Rhythms of Redemption I got a chance to throw a few questions across cyberspace to Richie Furay. He answered openly and at length about the music that looms so large in his legend and also about the side of this life’s calling that commercial success can never damage or taint; his faith and ministry.
Stockman - You are all over the history of rock ‘n’ roll. How does that feel?
Furay - When I left my little hometown in Ohio to go to New York City to be a folk singer, I had no idea where things would lead. My only aspiration was to make some music and have fun doing it. I had two good friends from college, who went along with me for a while, but then decision time came and we had to decide whether to go back to school or go on with the dream. I chose to stay on and from there I never looked back. I was very fortunate to have been a part of two, maybe three exceptionally talented groups. Certainly the Buffalo Springfield and Poco have left a mark pioneering folk rock and country rock. Whether Poco will ever be acknowledged for their contribution is yet to be seen, but in my heart I know what we did in opening the doors for what has become definitive American music.
Stockman - I see the solo albums have been made available again. What do you feel about that?
Furay - I'm very proud of those albums and was happy when they became available to the general market. I know the first time around there wasn't much support from the record company and the albums went unheard of for the most part. Each one has a special place in my heart and really gave me an opportunity to explore the music within. I'm sure the record company was a little apprehensive about how far to go in their support because of my open confession of faith - it was not the most popular decision one could make from a music business position. I was told by one good friend who was the editor of a popular teen magazine at the time (I was asked to make a contribution to an article on "turning 30" and it so happened I had just become born again and it was basically a testimony) but he told me, "I can't print this - it will be the end of your career."
The president of the record company challenged me before I finished "I've got a reason." "You're not gonna give me any of that Jesus music are you?" and, we'll, from there it was again a pioneering process that, as I look back now, may have cleared the way, or opened the door for some of the musicians who are believers to have pursue those avenues of mainstream rock ‘n’ roll! When the record companies realized there was money to be made, it wasn't long before they got on board - even developing divisions within their major companies for just that purpose. I hope some others get to hear the albums now that they're on CD - we'll see!
Stockman - What do you look back and listen to with most satisfaction?
Furay - I don't listen to a lot of my music today - every once in a while I'll put something on. It's interesting for me to hear the diversity in the music though - from "Kind Woman / Pickin' up the Pieces" - "Sad Memory / Good Time Boy" - "Yesterday's Gone" / "Stand Your Guard" - “Ooh Dreamer" / Good Feeling to Know". I guess if you're asking what is my favorite album? I guess Good Feelin' to Know because I think that album really showed what Poco was all about - the depth to what we were capable of doing. My solo albums also have a special place in my heart when I look back because I was pretty much on my own to create the music. I did a lot more co-writing but all the melodies were mine, and the lyrics. As I look back on the whole history, there's not one song I would be ashamed to sing anywhere, even today.
Stockman - When you look back do you ever find God lurking in the story before Al Perkins brought him right into your home?
Furay - Of course! In "Pickin' up the Pieces" there's subtle references and in some of the other songs as well. But long before I knew I'd become a believer, God was reaching out to me - had me in his sights.
Stockman - You were not really seeking God. What were your preconceptions of Him? How did Al break those down?
Furay - I was really a lot more naive than you might suspect. I grew up going to a Protestant church, but I wouldn't say our family was overly "religious" - church on Sundays but nothing beyond that. When my dad died (I was 13), going to church slowly slipped from the routine as far as I can remember. Up 'til that time I never really knew even the basics of Christianity - Jesus loved me, died for sins, believe in him if you want to go to heaven. Church was more of a social event for me. Al took the initiative and began sharing these concepts. Up 'til that time I never knew I could have a personal relationship with god or that I needed one if I had hopes for heaven.
But, as I stated earlier, there were still things in my music that would indicate somewhere along the line my heart had been touched by Christ whether I knew it or not. (The references in “Pickin' up the Pieces" and "Oh Yeah" and maybe some I'm forgetting - were nor conscious efforts to proselytize.) I wasn't a "religious" person. I'm not sure what my preconceptions were - I certainly didn't have a clue about the eternal consequences until Al started sharing with me. Like many people in the ‘60's I dabbled around with the Eastern influence but was not drawn to embrace it. I remember one of the prerequisites for going on the Beach Boy tours was to go through the initiation process of Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I remember taking my fruit and flowers and getting some word to repeat over and over again and going into a gymnasium locker room with Jimmy Messina when both of us were in "less than 'normal' frame of mind" and we said, "No, I don't think so," and never looked back on that.. I had quite a few friends who were into the American Hindu "stuff" at that time and it just never took hold.
I believe today it was Jesus protecting me and keeping me from letting myself get involved. At any rate, even when Al came along, I wasn't seeking or looking for God - but I know he was looking for me. That's the one interesting thing about Christianity - the thing that separates it from every other religion. Every other religion is man seeking God, seeking to attain some spiritual awareness and "get to God," whereas Christianity is God seeking man Jesus - coming from heaven's glory to earth, taking on a body of human flesh, yet without sin [Hebrews 415), and revealing the one true God to man. What a difference!!
The whole concept of salvation; God doing for man what we could never do for ourselves. When does one ever know they have done enough to please God, to be "good enough" to get to heaven, so every other religion becomes a religion of never-ending "works" in trying to please God, whereas Christianity says, believe God and "the work" of Jesus Christ at Calvary, the blood he shed for the forgiveness of sin, that's what God requires for man to stand before him in the final end(John 6:29)! Al showed me Christ living in him. He showed me a God who loved me unconditionally (I was not very nice to Al when Chris insisted he be a part of the SHF band). Al was patient and persistent and God used him to soften my heart to the grace of his salvation.
Stockman - In Jim McDonough’s
book about Neil Young, Shakey, it says, “ After Buffalo Springfield,
Stephen Stills would be the architect of the unrelentingly successful Crosby,
Still and Nash; Richie Furay would have success in Poco before becoming
a minister; and Neil Young would go on to do a million things.” Your line
is quite a line if you think about it. (Not sure of this is a question
but if you want to comment on it that would be cool)
Stockman - Let me ask you about vocation. Frederick Buechner says that our vocation is where, “Our deepest gladness meets the world’s greatest hunger.” Did your deepest gladness move away from music to preaching?
Furay - Music is still very much a part of my life and holds a very passionate place in my heart. I believe it has more meaning than ever to me. If I write a song about my wife I now know who gave me such a blessing. If I write a song of praise and worship, I know who I loved me and gave himself for me. Preaching is "proclaiming" the word of life - I'm only glad I've been given such an honor to be a servant of the Lord!
When I was growing up I wanted to be a lot of things. I wanted to be a fireman; I wanted to be a doctor; I wanted to be a baseball player; I wanted to be a professional musician. Certainly as I grew up a bit I realized I wasn't brave enough to be a fireman; I wasn't smart enough to be a doctor; I wasn't good enough to be a ball player; I did OK as a musician, but you know, one thing I never put on my list of "wannabe's" was servant. Not one time did that cross my mind, but that's what I have become - a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ - and that makes me glad!
Stockman - Was it a decision of one being of more value than the other or just circumstances that led you away from the music?
Furay - Certainly there's no real way to compare the two. The value of what I did as a musician is very important to me. The e-mails I get let me know - even today - that the music I made has had a deep impact on many, but circumstances did lead me away for a professional career to that of a “calling." I still get to share my heart in music, but I get to tell people about the king of the universe, the savior of the world - so this message has eternal value whereas the message before only has life here and now.
Stockman - Are they two different vocations or one of communication through slightly different disciplines?
Furay - I truly believe they fit together, because they're both a part of me. I do combine the two and am able to go out and share my music - all of it - as well as share the love of Jesus and what he has done and is doing in my life. Certainly my approach is a little different from when I first started doing this, but it's because I'm more secure with who I am in the Lord and who he is to me. Through music and testimony, I'm able to communicate how awesome this living, personal relationship with Christ is. It is truly a love story.
Stockman - Are there are any ways your career in rock music prepared you for the ministry?
Furay - Only in so much as they both have given me opportunity to be involved with people's lives. For some people the music I made is a religion to them - today, many who have written me off or shied away from me because of my conversion to Christ are more open to hear and listen. Maybe it's because they see this relationship is not a passing moment. Isn't it interesting when thinking about this; you can be a follower of just about anyone, be any kind of person, do awful things and you can still be accepted (or tolerated) but profess a faith in Christ and you're "crucified." Jesus said, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you,” John 1518. I believe it's because they're afraid they too might fall in love with Jesus. There is a spiritual warfare going on in the world today for the souls of lost men and women.
Stockman - You became a Christian during the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band days. How did coming to faith affect your writing? You didn’t go all evangelical. Indeed when you have dabbled back in, you haven’t felt any need to reject the old and write all new.
Furay - I am who I am. I want my life to bring honor to Jesus Christ. That doesn't mean every song I write has to be a take off on, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so". Most of my songs that are specifically directed to a Christian audience are worship and praise songs now. I did write "contemporary Christian" songs early on ("I’ve Got a Reason" - "Seasons of Change"). When a song is heading towards a secular audience, I simply write about my life from my perspective today. Either way - whether obvious or not, Jesus is at the heart of all I say and do.
Stockman - As a writer did you just stop writing as much or have you a ten-album box set ready to release?
Furay - I wish! I do have an album worth of music ready to go and hopefully I'll get it recorded one of these days. I continue to write with my partner Scott Sellen. I am getting ready to record another devotional CD in April.
Stockman - If you are still writing, is the writing a hobby, part of the ministry or a separate vocation?
Furay - I always write with a purpose in mind either for worship or something that has personally touched me. I do see much of my writing as a part of my over all ministry, whether the song is directed specifically to the Lord or indirectly.
Stockman - Are you still in touch with the rock n roll fraternity that you were so much a part of?
Furay - Not on a regular basis, but somewhat, especially the guys in Poco with whom I "sit in" if they're in or close to town.
Stockman - How do they view you being a minister?
Furay - At first they were quite reluctant to allow themselves to get too close. When we recorded _Reunion_, a Poco album in the early ‘90's, some of the songs I submitted were rejected because they "appeared" to be too religious. On the contrary, they were sincere love songs that anyone could have interpreted in many different ways. Every one was paranoid about giving me too much space is the way I saw it. It's unfortunate there was so much "fear," but then again I remember how I "felt" when Chris insisted on Al Perkins being in the SHF Band, I didn't want anything to do with him because I was convinced in my mind him being a Christian would get "in the way" of the road to Rock ‘n’ Roll success that was consuming me at the time.
Stockman - - On _Are You Passionate_? Neil mentions two old friends talking about God. You?
Furay - I have no idea - I haven't heard it.
Stockman - Tell us about your church.
Furay - We are a small non-denominational church. Our method of teaching is "book by book" - "verse by verse"! Our focus is on the Jesus Christ. Key words in our vision statement would read: "proclaim" (the word/the whole counsel of God - the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who come through our doors ) Romans 11:6, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 10:17, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. "Sustain / maintain" (those who come to be ministered to - help them grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord through worship, teaching, fellowship and prayer.) Acts 2:42, And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers Acts 411-16 11, And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head Christ 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. "Go Claim" (the lost - share the testimony of our faith to all we can) Matthew 2819-20 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end oRe Richie Furay (edit=Linda).ems
the age has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Stockman - Are you Rev. Richie or are you the rock legend in the pulpit, to them?
Furay - No - neither. I'm simply Richie or Pastor Richie. I believe only one is entitled to and deserving of the title "reverend" - Psalms 89:7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around him. I am simply one of his under shepherds. Just because I am a "pastor", I'm simply a servant of the Lord fulfilling one of the offices in the body of Christ. We will always get people to come and visit because of my past - 1 Corinthians 127 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; I want to be transparent in my service to and for the Lord, so when one visits, if they're coming for any other reason than to see Jesus they might be disappointed.
Stockman - Who have been the main influences on your ministry?
Furay - Of course Pastor Chuck Smith who began the Calvary Chapel Movement. Greg Laurie, another Calvary pastor. Alan Redpath! G. Campbell Morgan. Martyn Lloyd Jones. F. B. Meyer. These men were great men of God who wrote some awesome commentaries.
Stockman - What is your day-to-day role?
Furay - I kinda make up the rules as I go - whatever is necessary. I'll go to my office around mid-morning and be available for any number of things
Stockman - - Do you think the Church in general is influencing society enough?
Furay - No, I really don't! It seems to be following close to prophecy though. Jesus said Luke 18:8 Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" And Luke 17:26 "And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man to the "last days" church, Jesus pleads with them in Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, i will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me. We find Jesus completely excluded from the church in the latter days - today the liberal church is heading in this direction if not already there - it's an organization rather than a living organism. The church has become more and more political and social in nature.
Stockman - Who do you listen to musically?
Furay - I listen to country music as far as the secular goes and then mostly worship and praise from a Christian perspective. I'm not as interested in "contemporary Christian artists"
Stockman - What are you reading?
Furay - I never have been much of a reader - not even the "funnies" as a kid - I spend most of my time reading the 66 wonderful books of The Bible and commentaries. I do read the newspapers quite regularly to keep up on current events.
Stockman - What would you say to a budding musician out there who is following Jesus but pursuing a career in rock music?
Furay - make sure you're
following Jesus! David wrote psalm 16:8 "I have set the Lord always before
me; because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved." Far too many
who are seeking some kind of a "career in the music business" are easily
swayed and forget their calling.