10. Mark Farner
Grand Funk Railroad defined the arena rock scene of the early 1970s and even gave the era a theme song, the 1973 hit single, We’re an American Band. As the frontman for the band, guitarist and lead vocalist Mark Farner, playing bare-chested, seemed to epitomize the image of rock icon. But Grand Funk’s heyday was short-lived, and the band’s success fizzled as the 1980s began. Later in the decade, Farner found a new calling, releasing the Christian music album Just Another Injustice. With tracks such as Judgment Day Blues and Come To Jesus, it was clear Farner had changed. Farner has recorded other contemporary Christian CDs since then, including If It Wasn’t For Grace.
9. Nicko McBrain
Regarded as one of the greatest heavy metal drummers of all time, McBrain has been with the band Iron Maiden since 1982. Iron Maiden’s CDs, bearing names such as The Number of the Beast and featuring the demonic-looking character “Eddie,” have long been targeted by Christian organizations. McBrain gave his life to Christ in 1999 in an emotional experience after going to church with his wife, Rebecca. As McBrain told Willow Creek Association News, he prayed to receive Christ, and began to read the Bible. “I had this love affair with Jesus going on in my heart,” he said. McBrain still tours with the band, playing the songs that made the band popular. He’s also part of the worship music team at his church in Florida. He believes his seemingly incongruous lifestyle is part of the Lord’s plan. McBrain has given his testimony in front of heavy metal fans, and seen them commit their life to Jesus and he also frequently talks with fellow Iron Maiden members about his beliefs.
“I can’t say to you that I’m trying to convert all these guys in my band to be Christians,” McBrain told Canada.com in 2009. “I’m leading them on my route, and if they choose to follow what God’s plan is in the Bible, that’s up to them. I say to them all, you know, look, in my belief, at the moment, if you turn to your savior Jesus Christ, I’ll have eternal life in Heaven with you!”
8. John Davis
Davis helped found the alternative band Superdrag, which enjoyed some success in the 1990s. The singer and guitarist spent much of that time battling an alcohol addiction. Finally, in November 2001, Davis had a chilling moment while driving down the highway. “At first, I started to feel really uncomfortable,” he told CBN.com “I just started to feel funny, and I didn’t really know why. The next thing I knew, for lack of a better term, I just went into a cold sweat. All of a sudden, I just knew that God was dealing with me. … I knew that the void in my heart, my life, would never be filled with a liquor bottle, or anything else, but Him. I said, ‘Lord, I’m tired of running. I’m tired. Give me peace.’ It was like a cool breeze, a cool wave.” Since then, Davis has released two solo Christian rock CDs.
7. Dan Spitz
Spitz was the lead guitarist for one of the seminal thrash metal bands, Anthrax, during the 1980s and 1990s, ripping away on songs such as Spreading the Disease and Deathrider. Suddenly, in the mid-1990s, Spitz lost interest in the music. “I just lost the love of playing that type of music,” Spitz told BeliefNet.com. “I can’t even explain it. I didn’t even want to touch my guitar — when I did it was almost like a burning sensation. Wacky stuff. I didn’t play for almost four years.” In 2000, Spitz, who was raised in a Jewish home, became a Messianic Jew, a religious blend that upholds Jewish customs while acknowledging that salvation is only possible by accepting Jesus as one’s savior.
6. Bob Marley
Marley helped popularize reggae music and was a revered figure in Jamaica. He also helped expand the Rastafari religious movement, which worships longtime Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I as the reincarnation of Jesus. There is much circumstantial evidence that Marley, who died of cancer in 1981, proclaimed his faith in Jesus when the archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church baptized him in 1980. Then, as now, those who are baptized in that church must do so in the name of Jesus, not Haile Selassie I. According to prayerfoundation.org, Marley’s mother said his final words were, “Jesus take me.”
5. Jin Au-Yeung
Jin Au-Yeung (aka MC Jin) earned notoriety as the first Asian-American rap artist to be signed to a major record label. Lesser known was his devotion to Jesus, something he’d first explored during Sunday school classes as a child. Now billed as a Christian rapper, Au-Yeung can be seen throwing down lyrics such as, “but the breaks over Holy Spirit takeover/they say the truth will set you free if you so believe/Jesus is the truth with Him freedom can be achieved.”
4. Rick Derringer
Derringer found fame in the music world at age 17, playing guitar on The McCoy’s No. 1 hit Hang On Sloopy in 1965. A few years later, after a stint in Johnny Winter’s band, he launched a solo career. He’s remembered primarily for his 1973 hit single Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo, which still gets airplay on classic rock stations, but he’s also played on recordings by Kiss, Alice Cooper, Steely Dan and Cyndi Lauper. Since proclaiming his faith in Jesus several years ago, Derringer has reworked his biggest hit with new wording (“Read the Word, Live it Too”) and recorded contemporary Christian music.
3. Brian “Head” Welch
Former guitarist and co-founder of the nu-metal group Korn, Welch’s guitar skills were enough to land him at No. 26 on Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of all Time” list in 2004. But fame and fortune weren’t enough for Welch, who developed addictions to alcohol, methamphetamines and sleeping pills. Finally, in 2005, Welch found God. He was baptized in the River Jordan in March 2005. As he later explained in a Full Armor of God radio interview. "I was walking one day, just doing my rock and roll thing making millions of bucks, you know success and everything, addicted to drugs and then the next day I had Revelation of Christ and I was like, everything changes right now!" Welch detailed his spiritual awakening in his provocatively titled book, Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story.
2. Dave Mustaine
Mustaine hit it big not once, but twice in the heavy metal world, serving first as an early member of Metallica and later as the co-founder of the band Megadeth. His musical skills are profound — one influential book named him the Greatest Metal Guitarist of all Time. But there was a dark side to the fame. He battled an alcohol addiction (which got him booted from Metallica). He dabbled in witchcraft. By the early 2000s, Mustaine was sick of touring, tired of his fellow bandmates, and generally down on his life. As Mustaine later told an interviewer, “Looking up at the cross, I said six simple words, ‘What have I got to lose?’ Afterwards, my whole life has changed. It’s been hard, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Rather than go my whole life believing that there is a God and find out there isn't, than live my whole life thinking there isn't a God and then find out, when I die, that there is."
1. Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper thrilled teenagers and horrified their parents with his wild stage shows in the 1970s featuring boa constrictors, mock executions and plenty of androgynous ambiguity (“Why is your name Alice?”). It was shocking stuff at the time, but it earned Alice Cooper (aka Vincent Furnier) induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fast forward almost 40 years, and many people are just as shocked to learn that Cooper is a born-again Christian, and has been for many years. Cooper admits his initial draw to Jesus was mostly out of fear: “I did not want to go to hell.”
Cooper is somewhat reluctant to take on the mantle of celebrity “born-again Christian,” telling Hard Music Magazine, “Being a Christian is something you just progress in. You learn. You go to your Bible studies. You pray. … it’s real easy to focus on Alice Cooper and not on Christ. I’m a rock singer. … I consider myself low on the totem pole of knowledgeable Christians. So, don’t look for answers from me.” Cooper continues to tour, playing hits from his heyday in the 1970s and ’80s, minus some of the hard-core elements of the stage show. For those who criticize that decision, Cooper noted, “I’m a new creature now. Don’t judge Alice by what he used to be. Praise God for what I am now.”