Motown didn’t just change music – it changed America.
|photo credit: Soul Portrait via photopin cc|
Founder Berry Gordy was a trailblazer. He redefined pop music, and introduced us to artists like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and many others. But more importantly, he tore down the color barrier in American music. Through his groundbreaking work, African American artists achieved unprecedented success across racial lines. Ultimately, he brought black and white Americans together under the banner of music. Since the 1960’s, secular radio stations have played artists of all races without a second thought.
Here we are. More than fifty years later. And Christian music continues to be dramatically divided along racial lines.
You see, followers of Jesus have created two separate categories of music: Gospel and Contemporary Christian. Why? There’s likely a number of explanations that could be given. But all of them are ultimately excuses. No matter how you look at it – Christian radio is completely segregated.
There are certainly some Contemporary Christian songs that are a bit too edgy for mainstream radio airplay. The same truth would apply to Gospel music. However, secular radio stations have already worked this out. They’ve created separate radio stations to meet the demands of a particular musical niche. But almost every major city in America has at least one radio station that plays popular music without consideration to style. You’ll hear pop, modern country, hip hop, rap and more on one radio station. If it’s popular, it’s played. Period.
Sadly, this isn’t the case in Christian music. Generally speaking, white and black Christian artists can’t be heard on the same radio stations. And this doesn’t reflect well on the church.
Program directors at mainstream Christian radio stations need to learn from the precedent set by Berry Gordy more than fifty years ago. Clearly, there are some artists that are too edgy for mainstream airplay. So don’t play them. But there’s a long list of Gospel and Contemporary Christian artists that can and should be heard on the same radio stations.
Change is hard. It’s also scary. Particularly for listener supported radio stations. But my vision for Christian radio would be that we boldly reflect the beautiful diversity of God’s Kingdom.
Let’s tear down the color barrier in Christian music.