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Monday, June 07, 2010

The Perfect Key : : : Dana Key, 1953-2010

My wife and kids laugh at me when I cry because a musician died. They don’t mean to hurt my feelings. They might think I’m “cute” or something. But, when a musician dies and their music meant a lot to me on some level, I can’t help it. Some music speaks to my soul. Maybe it’s because of the place I was at in life when they grabbed my attention. Maybe it’s because they spoke in a way no one had before. Maybe they made their instrument speak in a foreign tongue.

Sometimes, it’s like losing a friend.

Today has been a trip down memory lane for me. The Christian music world has indeed lost a friend.

Dana Key, guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire most known for his work with the band, DeGarmo & Key passed away yesterday from a ruptured blood clot. He was 56 years old.

When I was about 12 years old, my parents became Christians. I had been a Christian for about three years at that time. I was introduced to Jesus by our neighbor—a dear woman who took us to Sunday School every week.

When mom and dad started following Jesus, they did what many of their new Christian friends were doing at the time—they busted up their old rock and roll albums and threw them away with the weed, the booze, and whatever reminded them of their “old” life. Like, the TV.

Problem was, I never had an “old” life like them and I still loved rock and roll.

Mom and dad insisted I get rid of all my albums too. They threatened to destroy them by fire. So, I would hide my albums at friends’ homes and even gave a stack to my girlfriend for safe keeping (my girlfriend became my wife and the albums were spared from the fire).

I was shaped by the contraband I listened to in the 70’s and 80’s. Rock stars were more than entertainers—they were my friends. They were my authority. They were my heroes. I found comfort there. I found peace. I found me.

Many of my newfound Christian friends introduced me to Christian rock and roll. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was not cool to be a Christian rocker. Most churches frowned upon the music. Christian rock pioneers were strangers in their hometowns. Many were kicked out of their churches. I LOVED these guys.

Parents who hated rock music hated ALL kinds of rock. Supposedly demons would dance to it. Supposedly, even if you played Christian music backwards, Satan would whisper secret winning lottery numbers to you and make you like Queen.

Back then, Christian rockers were twice removed from the church and the world. They were Christians so the world hated them. They were rockers so the church hated them. I found comfort in identifying with these people. Rebels with a cause.

Early Christian rockers pissed off religious folk. That was a banner I was willing to wear. And, honestly, still wear.

One day (I think in 1981) while at a friend’s home, I perused his album collection. There were a lot of albums I hadn’t heard. A lot of Christian rockers I hadn’t been introduced to yet. A couple of albums really caught my eye by a band called DeGarmo & Key.

They had long hair. They dressed like normal rockers. Their smiles looked like they knew a secret. I was compelled to listen.

For a boy that grew up listening to his dad’s pre-charred albums like Clapton, Van Morrision, Jesse Colin Young, The Who, Cat Stevens, Allman Brothers, etc. this music was just what I needed.

I rode with my friend and his brother who was a few years older and just got his driver’s license to a little store where they sold Christian rock albums. I bought everything by DeGarmo & Key and some others including Larry Norman, Mark Heard, Petra, Servant, and Resurrection Band. My new friends.

I stored the albums at my friend’s home and got there as often as possible. One song by DeGarmo & Key would make me cry every time I heard it.

Addey's a cat, she's a fool, she's a star, she's a queen
She lives in a trap down on third, never heard, never seen
She's desperate for a way to get out
But she don't know what out means
Ah, Addey, don't you be so afraid,
It's not as bad as it seems

She walks cross the floor, toward the door,
To stairs, to the street
She calls up a cab for downtown
There's a man she must meet
Ah, the thought that she has to go through
Makes her cry to be free
Oh Addey, wipe those tears form your eyes
You wouldn't want him to see

She puts on your face with a smile
As she walks through the door
She thinks of her folks, and her home
And what she came there for
Ah, she tells the man that after this time
She won't be back for more
But he says ; “Huh, Addey don't you be a fool
You've said the same thing, time and time before”

She runs down the street,
In the heat, down past Nowhere café
She drops to her knees 'neath a tree
But she don't know how to pray

Oh Addey, there's not life in that rig
Why don't you pack it away
Trust in God for a new kind of life
Honey, He won't lead you astray

DeGarmo & Key was one of my dad’s gateway drugs back into music. After his extreme reaction to all rock music in general, my dad came around and tried on his Christian rock pants for a bit. He too listened to D&K, Petra, Rez, Keaggy, Norman, Mylon and Broken Heart, Mustard Seed Faith, Heard, 77’s, and a host of others with me. Today, dad appreciates all music. Thank God. He even bought his old albums back—on CD.

Today I am praying for Dana’s family and the church he pastored in Tennessee.

Thank you, Dana for helping a kid and all his friends. We all boycotted hell.

Thanks for the music. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the contraband.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Beyond the land of Oz
Beyond the reach of man
Beyond the stars

There's a silver palace
There are streets of gold
There's a place believers
Call their home

No more separation
No more tearful eyes
No more loneliness
No more goodbyes

--No More Goodbyes, D&K

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