Pat Boone’s Crossover Music Flouted the Boundaries of Sacred and Secular Marketplaces

Once again, I had the honor of being featured on the website Cover Me Songs. I enjoy working with the editors and the opportunity to write about music in a critical way.

Today, my essay in defense of Pat Boone went live. In that essay, I look at the tongue-in-cheek humor of Boone’s 1997 album In A Metal Mood, which was collection of covers of hard rock and heavy metal songs. Here’s a sample:

I tried to situate Boone within the larger history of rock and roll. His covers of R&B songs by black musicians helped to sanitize and popularize rock music for white audiences. And we owe some debt of gratitude because without that broader appeal of rock music, heavy metal may never have come into existence. I also consider Boone’s relationship with American evangelicalism and the backlash that In A Metal Mood created among the TBN crowd.

Readers of this blog will come to learn that I’m a fanboy when it comes to the scholarship of Randall Stephens at the University of Oslo. I’m especially fond of his book The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘n Roll. Stephens gives a brief recounting of this episode in the epilogue of his book. He summarizes the kerfuffle as follows:

In certain circles, the prospect of Christian artists–whether old-timers like Boon or relatively new stars like Amy Grant–selling out to the market and caving in to secularism was a pressing concern. (p. 243)

I think that is about three-quarters true. Christian circles often bemoaned the secularism of popular music and the non-ecclesial marketplaces that vied for the attention of the public. But Contemporary Christian Music was an industry in and of itself. And thus it had its own markets to which it kowtowed. American Protestantism had sanctified market capitalism early in our national history. And in turn corporate America helped to sell the idea of America as a Christian nation. So, working within the markets of the Christian-industrial complex was not so secular and enterprise. It was when an artist attempted to step out of (or bridge between) the marketplaces that Christians often turned on their own.