It's a familiar story: talented musicians passionately hone their craft, get discovered, make it big, and destroy their lives with the lure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Sometimes the cycle ends with tragedy, but in some cases God steps in and lives are turned around. Those are the stories rock veteran Ken Mansfield tells, with coauthor Marshall Terrill, in Rock and a Heart Place: A Rock 'n' Roller-coaster Ride from Rebellion to Sweet Salvation.
I love to read about lives that are changed by an encounter with Jesus. Some of Mansfield's subjects hit bottom dramatically after hitting heights of accomplishment in the music industry, living the stereotypical rock and roll lifestyle before being hit with their desperate need of a savior. As pleased as I am to see lives changed, I have a hard time sympathizing with some of these characters. I don't get the draw of the drug-addicted, self-destructive lifestyle some of them lived. I'm not judging; we all have our own sins and temptations. As Mansfield tells their stories, it almost seems like he believes they were following an inevitable arc.
One interesting exception is perhaps the least likely: Rudy Sarzo. Despite his playing with Ozzy Ozbourne, one of the most notorious, villainized rockers, singled out by Christian critics as the epitome of what is evil about rock music, Sarzo's lifestyle seems to have consistently demonstrated clean living, family stability, and living for God. I have hard time wrapping my mind around playing one's instrument for the glory of God when the front man of your band is Ozzy, but that's Sarzo's attitude. Again, I'm not judging. Christians in every field can work "as unto the Lord" whether their bosses are heathens or Christians.
The bulk of Rock and a Heart place is music industry history and back story. If you're a fan of any of the artists profiled, you will enjoy their stories of how they got into the industry, who they've played with, and what hits they had. In most cases, their conversion stories get short shrift, without much detail or spiritual, theological reflection. Also, Mansfield, a musician and music industry executive, injects himself too frequently into their stories. With some of them, he had professional interactions, but with most of them he just talked about how he could relate to their story and then he would tell some of his own story.
Even though Rock and Heart Place is a bit short on inspiration and long on rock and roll history and anecdotes, I was encouraged by some of their stories and inspired to seek out some of their music. God was seeking them out amid their music, money and fame. In the same way, he seeks each of us out, wherever we are.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!