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A pioneer of CCM music, influential singer/songwriter Keith Green rose to success in the late '70s pairing a pop-oriented soft rock sound with overtly religious messages. Born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, in 1953, Green developed his musical talent at an early age, signing a deal with Decca Records when he was only 11 years old. Touted by Decca as an emerging teen idol, Green's finesse as a songwriter made him an exception from the norm and, in 1965, he became the youngest member of publishing rights agency ASCAP. His success was short-lived, however, as more prominent teen idols like Donny Osmond soon stole the spotlight. Barely out of his teens, Green married fellow musician Melody Steiner in 1973 and two soon became deeply involved in the Christian faith. Both staff writers for CBS Records, the Greens began opening their California home to those in need, providing a safe environment for fellow seekers. Their homegrown outreach eventually developed into Last Days Ministries, a non-profit organization that would continue to operate for decades to come. Green's reemergence as a Christian recording artist came in 1977 with the release of For Him Who Has Ears to Hear on Sparrow Records. With a soft rock style reminiscent of Elton John or Leo Sayer, Green appealed to both secular and religious audiences, though his messages were distinctly Christian. Following his second album, 1978's No Compromise, he left Sparrow and instituted a personal policy that would offer fans his music for free. This leap of faith saw the Greens mortgaging their home to privately finance 1980's So You Want to Go Back to Egypt. Pioneering a model that wouldn't gain traction until nearly 30 years later, the album was offered through mail order and at concerts on a pay-what-you-want basis in the hopes of further spreading his faith-based message. Following a 1981 set called The Keith Green Collection, he delivered what would be his last album, Songs for the Shepherd. On July 28, 1982, just a few months after the album's release, Green and two of his children were killed in a plane crash during what was to be an aerial tour of the Last Days Ministries property. A pair of posthumously released albums, 1983's The Prodigal Son and 1984's Jesus Commands Us to Go!, were rescued from the vault. Several more compilations and anthologies have been released over the ensuing decades as well as a number of tribute albums. Following his death, Green's wife Melody continued to lead their ministry and, in 1989, published a biography of her late husband titled No Compromise. Decades after his death, Green's legacy and influence still resonate in the CCM world. ~ Timothy Monger
21 October 1953 in Brooklyn, NY
'60s, '70s, '80s