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Music History Events: Music and Religion

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June 26, 2015 President Barack Obama sings "Amazing Grace" at the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed along with eight others when a gunman opened fire during a Bible study at his church in Charleston, South Carolina.More

August 25, 2009 Skillet's Awake album debuts at #2 on the US albums chart, tying with Underoath's Define The Great Line and Casting Crowns' The Altar and the Door for the highest-charting Christian rock album. The album also features their first Hot 100 entry: "Awake and Alive."More

March 13, 2006 Isaac Hayes quits the TV series South Park after an episode airs mocking his religion, Scientology.More

April 22, 1999 Sinead O'Connor is ordained in Lourdes, France, as the first female priest in the Latin Tridentine Church, a dissident Roman Catholic group.

September 27, 1997 Bob Dylan plays "Knocking On Heaven's Door" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" for Pope John Paul II and an audience of 300,000 at the World Eucharist Congress in Bologna, Italy. For the 77-year-old Pope, it's a chance to connect with young people, and the pontiff does so by invoking Dylan's song "Blowin' In The Wind" during his sermon. Dylan's invite is not without controversy, as the future Pope Benedict fears the "rock prophet" and his music are at odds with the Roman Catholic faith.More

October 3, 1992 Sinéad O'Connor, famous for her hit song "Nothing Compares 2 U," goes way off script during her Saturday Night Live appearance, declaring "Fight the real enemy" and tearing up a picture of the Pope.More

September 9, 1979 Two years after converting to Islam, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) enters into an arranged marriage with Fauzia Ali. The couple raise five children, strictly adhering to the Muslim faith.

July 22, 1979 Little Richard, who has been preaching of his salvation throughout the United States, makes his famous statement, "If God can save an old homosexual like me, he can save anybody."More

December 23, 1977 Cat Stevens converts to Islam and changes his name to Yusuf Islam.More

December 19, 1976 Al Green, recently ordained as a minister, opens the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, where he preaches most Sundays.

October 12, 1970 Jesus Christ Superstar opens on Broadway, telling the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus.More

December 4, 1965 The Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)," written by Pete Seeger with lyrics lifted from a passage in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes, hits #1 in America.

May 27, 2012 Lady Gaga is forced to cancel a scheduled concert performance in Jakarta, Indonesia, after Islamic protesters threaten to stop the show themselves. Bearing banners saying "Go to hell, Lady Gaga," the protesters cite the singer's loose morals and revealing costumes as evidence that she is corrupting the youth. The island of Bali remains a predominantly Hindu enclave within Indonesia, with much of the rest of the population Islam, Christian, or Sikh.

October 6, 2006 Mumbai-based EMI Virgin India Ltd announces that it will recall all copies of Slayer's most recent album Christ Illusion following protests by a Christian group, Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum (CSF).

June 6, 1987 After being criticized by church members for his "worldliness," Michael Jackson cuts ties with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

November 4, 1980 An ailing Bob Marley is baptized a "Christian Rastafarian" at Kingston, Jamaica's Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

August 20, 1979 Bob Dylan, a recent convert to Christianity, releases the faith-driven album Slow Train Coming.More

November 24, 1978 In a clear prelude to his coming "Christian" direction, the Jewish-born Bob Dylan plays tonight's gig in Fort Worth, Texas, wearing a large gold cross around his neck.

April 20, 1970 The New York Times reports on "submarine churches" inspired by the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine." Their logos are variations of a submarine with the periscope forming a peace sign.More

December 15, 1967 In Paris, the members of The Beach Boys have their own audience with guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

August 12, 1966 At a Beatles press conference in Chicago to promote their American tour, the big topic is John Lennon's quote, "We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity." Lennon, clearly shaken by the controversy, explains: "I was pointing out that fact in reference to England - that we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion, at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down, I was just saying it as a fact."

October 12, 1957 Little Richard renounces rock and embraces God, telling the crowd at his show in Sydney, Australia: "If you want to live for the Lord, you can't take rock 'n' roll, too. God doesn't like it." After the tour, Richard gives up secular music, gets ordained as a minister, and records Gospel. He doesn't return to rock until 1962.

November 19, 1954 While driving from Vegas to Los Angeles, Sammy Davis, Jr. crashes into another car on Route 66 in San Bernardino, California, and three days later, permanently loses use of his left eye. While in the hospital, friend Eddie Cantor tells Davis about the twin struggles of the Jewish and African-Americans, leading Davis to convert to Judaism. (The accident, paradoxically, increased his popularity.)

November 6, 1953 Frankie Laine's "Answer Me" is banned by the BBC, who claim the lyrics "Answer me, Lord above" are mocking Christian prayer. Also banned is Lee Lawrence's "Crying In The Chapel."

July 6, 2020 On his 85th birthday, The Dalai Lama releases the album Inner World, a collection of Buddhist mantras and prayers set to music.

January 6, 2019 Kanye West debuts his weekly Sunday Service series at his home in Calabasas, California. The event, teased on social media by wife Kim Kardashian, features gospel-soul takes of Kanye's hits with the rapper's celebrity pals rounding out the congregation. More

April 14, 2016 In an interview with the Mormon Stories podcast, Neon Trees lead singer Tyler Glenn reveals that he is leaving the Mormon church in response to its ruling that gay marriage is apostasy. Glenn came out as gay in 2014.

March 7, 1998 Archbishop Franc Rode organizes a special mass to forgive the blasphemers who wrote and recorded "Bitchcraft."

June 28, 1997 Thanks to the heartwarming title track written for his daughter, Bob Carlisle's Butterfly Kisses becomes the first contemporary Christian album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200.

October 25, 1992 The "Sinead Brigade," a group supporting Sinéad O'Connor, who tore up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live a few weeks earlier, protests outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, where Cardinal John O'Connor is holding mass. Wearing masks of O'Connor, they mimic her display by tearing up photos of the Pope.

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