New Music Cover
RANDY STONEHILL
Wanting To Do Something Monumental In Music
By Paul Davis
New Music - No. 16 (1979)

New Music Picture #1

Extroverted and outragious, Randy Stonehill has been amusingly described as the man inside the Superman T-shirt'. A description derived from Randy's striking clothing attire.

"Rock music is the only type of music some kids will listen to. If we don't put Jesus into modern music, some of them might never really hear the message! I sing about Jesus because He changed my life. My generation desperately needs to hear about God and in a way they can really understand", he once declared.

HIGHLY PRAISED ABILITY

Randy's performing abilities have been highly praised by many including Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame), who stated, "A really great performer . . . and I just love his songs". Credit has also been lavishly given to him by the Press. 'Randy is a Christian songwriter par excellance. His witty stage presence helps him get past the walls of even the most resistent audiences', said 'The End Times'. 'A disciplined performer with a relaxed stage presence and powerful lyrics to his religious songs', is how he was described by the 'Los Angeles Times' while the 'San Francisco Chronicle' correspondent wrote, 'His concert was one of the most moving experiences in the past few seasons'.

The Jesus Revolution ushered in a New Age of Gospel Songwriters and one of the undoubted leaders of these contemporary message troubadours was Randy Stonehill. Someone once said that Randy had the sort of physique that would 'turn a cannibal into a vegetarian!' He was literally six foot six inches of skinny bones! Not only did he automatically stand out in any crowd, but in addition, Randy was also a self confessed extrovert. All these features helped him to win the attention and appreciation of his audiences.

His dry humour and disarming honesty provided the perfect combination for breaking down any real or imaginative barriers existing between the performer and his audience. He once thoughtfully stated, "People can relate to a performer who comes on in a straightforward and personal way. They don't feel like they're watching a 'Mr. Perfect' who will give them the formula for living!"

WHAT HIS MOTHER SAID

Randy's casual start in the musical world was fairly undramatic. He recalls this early start with a smile. "My musical roots almost go further back than I can remember . . . My mother told me that when I was two years old, I used to like to sit in front of the television and watch 'American Bandstand' . . . I started singing at the age of four, folk songs by the Kingston Trio, all about characters like Davy Crockett . . . things like that! My neighbours used to give me small change to perform for them . . . I actually started playing the guitar at the age of ten, but I'd been making guitar sounds in my head years before that. I guess that really documents the start of my professional career . . . My first major/minor accomplishment was winning grand prize in the San Jose, California, city-wide talent contest at age thirteen!"

Despite such modest, young beginnings, Randy could be described in the mid-70s as a qualified graduate of the underground Christian music scene . . . a young veteran. The celebration and the certainty of his Christian life were reflected in many of his biting compositions. The lyrics, filled with subtle humour and tender insight, all focused on Randy's basic Christian conviction that the World's problems were just extensions of the basic human problem: Man without God. "The solutions to the World's problems", he once stated, "are just idealistic 'should be's' without God's power and guidance behind them!"

THE UNDERGROUND GRADUATE

Politically, the bespeckled Randy refused to be remotely drawn to either the political left or the political right. He ardently stated, "I admire no-body politically but I do try to be a contributing citizen. There are a lot of good people involved in the competitive game of politics. It appears, though, that you have to give up something to get there! Seeing government in other countries has been interesting . . . Government is like spiritual doctrine . . . if people could just humble themselves and turn from their way . . . God would heal our land!"

In 1970, he proudly released his first Christian rock album, 'Born Twice' and shortly after sang the lead role in Jimmy 'Come Together' Owens' first Christian musical entitled, 'Show Me'. A musical deserving much greater attention than it received.

By 1972, Randy Stonehill's solo career had kicked off to a healthy start. He had regularly supplied back-up vocals for other recording artists, thereby acquainting himself with many of the top names in the musical pop world. 'Son of Blob' (for 'Jack H. Harris Enterprise, Inc.') and 'Time to Run' (for Billy Graham's 'Worldwide Pictures') marked his nervous debut as an actor and provided the first of many opportunities to contribute to the musical scoring of motion pictures. Deep down he secretly wished for the opportunity to do more acting.

The desire he once voiced like this . . . "I've gotten into acting . . . It excited me . . . I have had the opportunity to be in a few movies, but my musical contribution superseded my involvement as an actor. However, because of the fact that I enjoy the visual as well as the musical side of performing, I really enjoyed the artistic challenges of acting . . . I hope to be offered more motion picture roles".

COMEDY - A POWERFUL MEDIUM

One unusual avenue into which Randy would wish to see his Christian ministry extended, is in the delicate and almost uncharted area of comedy. He once stated, "I'm fascinated by comedy. It's a powerful medium when you think about it . . . Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, George Carlin and their contemporaries exhibited more than just an ability to get laughs in a night-club. They had some observations to make about the way we attempted life. I could mention more comedians . . . Alan King, Bob Newhart . . . I've integrated a great deal of humour and comic technique into my stage performance. A laugh often seems like a relaxing foundation to build something upon."

Randy's personal appearance itinerary has included hundreds of colleges and universities through the sponsorship of Christian outreach organisations. He has also succeeded in securing worthwhile dates in commercial clubs where the Christian would have great difficulty penetrating.

His unique ministry has sometimes taken him abroad. For instance, he met with good success in Great Britain. However, Randy was always pleased to return home to savour the traditional American dishes which he missed so much. The American dishes may lack sophisticated refinement but Randy clearly did not care! "I really dig lasagne and bacon sandwiches . . . My mom makes a fine apple pie . . . I like a good omelette too!"

Eating of course only consumed a small degree of Randy Stonehill's spare time. On reflection, Randy concluded that his time has been very tight and busy. "So many good things have been happening to me . . . movies, records, concerts, new friends . . . I've been studying the Bible . . . delivering my cat's babies . . . and looking at people... I'm really happy to see a lot of people . . . male and female . . . developing their potential as human beings. One of the good results of women's Lib is that many of the women in this world are doing amazing things with their lives."

HIS MUSICAL TASTES

Musically, his personal preferences and tastes were well defined. "I think my tastes covered a pretty wide spectrum, but two artists that stand out are Mick Jagger and Joni Mitchell. Mitchell got to me with her writing. She just really hit home in a personal, magnetic way. Her overall incredible, musical talent astounded me. To my mind, she was the queen of female artists! Jagger really 'cooked' on stage. He also did the most outragious 'chicken walk' I'd ever seen. But I can't say I endorsed him beyond his artistic brilliance."

When the still young Randy was recently asked if he had any big and exciting plans for the future, he jokingly mumbled a few remarks about Gold Records and bright neon lights but finally, with a wide-open grin, answered "I want to do something monumental in music! . . . I really think people are ready for something fresh and different and lasting. . . I'd also like to get into producing new artists, and I hope to do something interesting in the medium of television or motion pictures."

However, the man inside the Superman T-shirt, had no doubt about the most important things in his life. His deep relationship with God was top of the list followed by - "Being able to be myself . . . Rock and Roll music . . . The reality of love in my life . . . I try to present an alternative to people's greed and the general inability of our society to counter destructive forces . . . These are the main things that have shaped my life and music and make me get up in the morning!"

To the humorous Randy the everyday type person in an audience was important and special. He had no great desire to elevate himself in his audiences' eyes. What he genuinely desired to accomplish was the communication to each individual, something of his Faith through his personalised style of musical expression.


Originally published in the No. 16 issue of New Music magazine in the UK.
Special Thanks To D. Rex And David Di Sabatino for contributing this article.