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Is it Wrong to Listen to "Clean" Secular Rock?
September 14, 2010
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
“I am a 14-year-old born-again Christian (proud of being born again) with a question about secular music. I do not approve of the rock lifestyle, but I like rock music. I have about 40% secular music and 60% Christian music on my iPod. I am very picky about the secular music on my iPod. I do not approve of music about sex, drugs, or alcohol. I also will not tolerate curse words and blasphemy. But throughout the Rock 'n' Roll scene, there are songs without any of this. I have found that it is hard to find one secular group that has none of this in any of their songs, but my philosophy has always been that I should judge the song instead of the singer. For example, John Lennon, one of the pill-popping adulterous Beatles who stated that he was more famous then Jesus, wrote a song entitled ‘Beautiful Boy’ for his son. I have always found this song sweet and enjoyed it, but the song ‘Imagine’ starts off with ‘Imagine there’s not heaven, it’s easy if you try.’ And I don't approve of that song. So this leads me to my question: In your opinion, should I not listen to any of the clean secular songs, because they are written by vulgar Rock 'n' Roll stars. I stress that I do not admire them, but I do love music a lot.”


That is an excellent question, and I will give five reasons why I believe this is an unscriptural and spiritually dangerous practice.

1. A major problem with rock music is the sensual back beat that appeals to the flesh; this is a serious issue regardless of the lyrics.

Certain kinds of rhythms produce certain effects on people. Dr. David Elkind, Chairman, Department of Child Study, Tufts University, warned: “There is a great deal of powerful sexual stimulation in THE RHYTHM of rock music.”

Blues, jazz, rock, reggae, rap, and other forms of modern dance music have an intimate and inextricable association with immorality, drunkenness, drug abuse, gambling, prostitution, and other evils. It is impossible to disconnect the music from this association. “Sex, drugs, and rock & roll” is not just a popular saying; it is a true saying because “sex, drugs, and rock & roll” go together like peas in a pod.

The chief component of this type of music is the heavy back beat. It is called the anapestic beat. This is a poetic term that describes poetry using three syllables with the emphasis on the third -- da-da-DA, da-da-DA. In music, the anapestic or back beat emphasizes the off beat. The anapestic rock beat goes one-TWO-three-FOUR or one-two-THREE, one-two-THREE. This is in contrast with a “straight” or march beat, which has the emphasis on the first beat or on each beat equally -- one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four, or ONE-two-three-four, ONE-two-three-four.

This backbeat has been the chief characteristic of rock music from its inception. Consider these quotes:

“I felt that if I could take a ... tune and drop the first and third beats and accentuate the second and fourth, and add a beat the listeners could clap to as well as dance this would be what they were after” (Bill Haley, cited by Charlie Gillett,
The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, p. 14).

Chuck Berry sang, “I dig that rock and roll music; it has a back beat; you can't lose it.”

Huey Lewis and the News sang, “When they play their music, ooh that modern music, they like it with a lot of style; but it's still that same old backbeat rhythm that really, really drives 'em wild” (“The Heart of Rock & Roll”).

Elvis Presley testified: “It’s the beat that gets to you. If you like it and you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it” (cited by Steve Turner,
Hungry for Heaven, p. 35).

In his history of party music in Memphis, Tennessee, author Larry Nager observed that “…the forbidden pleasures of Beale Street had always come wrapped in the PULSING RHYTHMS of the blues” (Larry Nager,
Memphis Beat). He is describing the back beat that is the basic element of rock & roll. That part of Beale Street near the river was infamous for its bars, gambling dens, and houses of prostitution. Those are the “forbidden pleasures” referred to by Nager. It is not happenstance that those wicked activities were accompanied by certain types of pulsing rhythms. And those old blues and boogie woogie rhythms were not always loud and boisterous. Like rock music, there were soft blues as well as hard.

Famous bluesman Robert Johnson knew that his guitar music had a licentious affect on women. He said, “This sound [the blues] affected most women in a way that I could never understand.”

B.B. King, one of the most famous of the bluesmen, made the same observation in his autobiography: “The women reacted with their bodies flowing to a rhythm coming out of my guitar…” (B.B. King,
Blues All Around Me).

These blues musicians admit that their rhythms produce a sexual reaction.

Consider some other testimonies from secular social scientists, music experts, and from rock musicians themselves:

Graham Cray, former chairman of the Greenbelt Festival said: “In all pop music lyrics are secondary. POP IS MUSIC OF FEELING, SPOKEN PRIMARILY TO THE BODY and only secondarily to the intellect.”

Dr. Simon Frith said, “We respond to the materiality of rock’s sounds, and THE ROCK EXPERIENCE IS ESSENTIALLY EROTIC” (
Sound Effects, p. 164).

Gene Simmons of Kiss said, “That’s what rock is all about--SEX WITH A 100 MEGATON BOMB, THE BEAT!” (
Entertainment Tonight, ABC, Dec. 10, 1987).

Irwin Sibler said, “The great strength of rock & roll lies in its beat. It is a music which is BASICALLY SEXUAL, unpuritan...” (
Sing Out, May 1965, p. 63).

Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention said, “ROCK MUSIC IS SEX. The big beat matches the body’s rhythms” (
Life, June 28, 1968).

Robert Palmer said: “I believe in the transformative power of rock and roll … this transformative power inheres not so much in the words of songs or the stances of the stars, but in the music itself--in the SOUND, and above all, in the BEAT” (
Rock & Roll an Unruly History, p. 12).

John Lennon said: “Because it is PRIMITIVE enough and has no bull, really, the best stuff, and it GETS THROUGH TO YOU BY ITS BEAT” (
Rolling Stone, Feb. 12, 1976, p 100).

Rapper Luke Campbell of 2 Live Crew says, “The sex is definitely in the music, and SEX IS IN ALL ASPECTS IN THE MUSIC.”

Jan Berry of Jan and Dean says, “The THROBBING BEAT OF ROCK PROVIDES A VITAL SEXUAL RELEASE for adolescent audiences” (cited by Ken Blanchard,
Pop Goes the Gospel).

Observe that these statements do not refer to the words of rock music but to the back beat rhythm in particular. This is a loud warning to those who have ears to hear.

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:17).

2. The rock rhythm is addictive.

By listening to rock, one develops an appetite for and addiction to this type of music, and like all addictions this one is never content. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith said, “Rock music is the strongest drug in the world.” Timothy Leary said: “Don’t listen to the words, it’s the music that has its own message. ... I’ve been stoned on the music many times” (
Politics of Ecstasy).

The child of God should avoid any fleshly thing that has this type of addictive power.

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

3. “Clean” rock is a dangerous bridge to the evil things and unclean spirits that permeate rock and roll.

The Bible warns God’s people to stay away from evil. There is great spiritual danger in dabbling with the world’s toys. To play around with rock music in the search for “clean” songs is a very dangerous occupation. It is playing with fire! Rock music has captured the heart and soul of multitudes of people and carried them into the depths of satanic deception and eternal destruction.

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

4. The listener has to sort through the huge amount of garbage in rock music to find a few relatively innocent songs.

Is this a safe and wise use of this brief earthly life?

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17).

5. We must be concerned about our influence on others.

If I listen to “clean rock,” it is probable that my influence will encourage others to listen to music that is much worse. I might be exceedingly careful about what rock songs I listen to, but it is doubtful if others within my sphere of influence will be so careful.

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. . . . Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:23, 24, 31).

“It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Rom. 14:21).

Steve Peters, who does not believe all rock & roll is wrong for Christians, nevertheless made the following important admission: “Just about the time I think I’ve found a good-clean-acceptable secular musician, they blow it on their next album or tour. And if I have recommended them, suddenly I find myself scrambling to tell thousands of teens who know--I WAS WRONG” (
The Truth about Rock, p. 90). We would remind Mr. Peters that he will never undo all the damage he has caused by recommending secular rock even hesitatingly and tentatively. Such recommendations by Christian authority figures are a bright green signal to young people that it is alright to explore the filthy world of rock. VERY few of them will be as cautious about what they listen to as Mr. Peters says he is and very few will escape the moral and spiritual pollutions that permeate the world of rock.

I will conclude with a statement by our friend Brian Snider, who also came out of a life of heavy involvement with rock music and its wicked lifestyle. I asked him to reply to this same question:

“I guess it’s just a matter of getting some personal conviction about the issue of fellowship with the ‘unfruitful works of darkness’ (Ephesians 5:11). In that passage, it says that the works are ‘unfruitful.’ You could take that to mean things that don’t necessarily drag you down into deep sin, but that don’t help you and could possibly hinder you.

The Bible says we should ‘approve things that are excellent’ (Philippians 1:10), not just things that are middling or near the world. I am familiar with the song ‘Beautiful Boy’ and it is a pretty song, but I knew when I got saved I’d have to give up rock music--not just the overtly wicked stuff--but I just felt that I would have to eliminate all John Lennon.

“I doubt if the young person who wrote to you loves rock music more than me or you. I love it a lot, too. Giving up rock is a bitter pill for the flesh to swallow, but I’d recommend swallowing it.

“Also, there are a lot of attachments with rock music that go far beyond the music. The attitudes, lifestyles, immorality, coolness, dress, etc., that we ought to distance ourselves from.

“There are some Beatles songs that, as far as the melodies go, I wouldn’t necessarily mind having on my iPod (‘Yesterday,’ ‘Norwegian Wood,’ ‘Blackbird,’ etc.). But even then the lyrics aren’t always wholesome, and the fact is, you can’t separate the music from the men or women who made it” (Brian Snider, February 20, 2008).

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