The Devil's Music review: Randall Stephens on Christianity and rock `n' roll

The Devil's Music

Randall J. Stephens

Harvard University Press, $56.99

"Are the Beatles Minstrels of the Antichrist?" So ran the headlines in conservative Protestant and Catholic magazines in the late 1960s as Christians in America railed against rock 'n' roll. Despite moral panic that it was the devil's music, the Pentecostal churches began to harness the power of pop to spread the word. Three years after Woodstock, Billy Graham took to the stage of the Jesus Music Festival clutching his bible and urging the youthful audience to grow in their faith. But hostility among the religious right persisted into the 1980s, expressing itself in church-sponsored album burnings. Most intriguing is the way rock and faith fed into each other. As Randall Stephens observes in this research-heavy work, the battle was not just about music, it was "a proxy war for control over the nation and for hearts and minds of teens".