Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Song A Day: Children of the Day, "New Life"

JUNE 28, 2017



I am not a Christian, but I am interested in high-quality Christian pop and rock, mostly from the “Jesus Music” movement of the late 60s and early 70s. Some of this music is so good that its very existence stands as its strongest argument.

One fine LP is the debut by the Children of the Day, a two-woman, two-man aggregation from California affiliated with Chuck Smith’s Calvary Church in Costa Mesa.

Sisters Marsha and Wendy Carter, who played guitar, were joined by bassist Russ Stevens and pianist/guitarist Peter Jacobs. All but Stevens composed and all four sang, creating rich baroque harmonies in service of some lovely post-60s pop songs.

The first track on their first album, Come to the Waters, is “New Life,” a song addressed to one who has just accepted Christ. It’s hopeful, happy, youthful, loving…and super-catchy. Peter Jacobs wrote a magnificent song and the quartet created an outstanding four-part vocal line.

The concept and execution are so solid that a friend of mine referred to this song as “Godfinger.” I get it—the block harmonies and piano are absolutely in the Beatles tradition—but it’s also something else. There’s a strong sense of adult contemporary pop, a conservative Southern California feel that echoes fellow SoCal denizens The Carpenters.

Very rarely did the group actually “rock.” They did a Buffalo Springfield-ish country-rock thing or two, but most of Come to the Waters aims more for Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney.

The group received early notoriety for Marsha Carter’s “For Those Tears I Died,” a heartfelt prayer which Pat Boone recorded. Kathryn Kullman invited the quartet to sing it on her syndicated TV show, in fact, and Children of the Day became stars of the new Jesus Music scene, which orbited around Chuck Smith and the Maranatha! record label. Marsha and Russ even married and started a family.

Their music was never as good as it was on the first album, unfortunately, and eventually Marsha Stevens realized that she was gay. When she came out of the closet, her marriage and the group ended; after this, she was never again accepted by the Christian music community.

Her website states that Children of the Day were asked to reunite to play at a Calvary Church reunion in 1999, but without Marsha. The other three members refused and were summarily dis-invited from performing.

Today, Pete Jacobs commandeers several “oldies” ensembles in Southern California, while Marsha Stevens-Pino and her spouse Cindy Stevens-Pino have spent the last several decades ministering to LGBTQ Christians who feel left out of traditional churches. Russ Stevens and Wendy Carter have retired from public life.

This, then, is “New Life”—the music of committed young people fresh into their journey with Jesus. It’s inspiring, and it’s also great pop.

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