Ten rockers who found religion
We all dream of finding fame and fortune in our chosen fields, but when people actually do get rich and famous, they often discover that money can't buy happiness, or love, or whatever it is the Beatles were singing about. What's the answer, then? God? Meditation? E-meter auditing? When musicians get religion, they usually do it in a hilariously public way -- because if the adoration of millions of fans doesn't do the spiritual trick, then telling your millions of fans about your brand-new connection with the universe surely will.
While not technically a religion unto itself, Kabbalah -- or Jewish mysticism -- is a unique and convoluted system of belief that requires decades of study to begin to penetrate. Madonna seemed surprised that she drew flak from the Jewish community for taking one of the world's most dense and esoteric disciplines and turning it into a T-shirt that read, Kabbalists Do It Better. Apparently, she thought that adopting the name Esther and donating millions of dollars to schools teaching Kabbalah would be all the Talmudic street-cred she would need. "It would be less controversial if I joined the Nazi Party," she told the New York Daily News. Would it, though, Madonna? Would it, really?
9. Dave Mustaine
Veteran of Metallica, Megadeth and countless hours of inebriation, Dave Mustaine decided to leave Alcoholics Anonymous to focus on Christianity. He subsequently refused to play with any band that showed Satanic leanings, preferring instead to learn the ways of peace and tolerance. In 1988, he welcomed gay fans into the fold with the observation that "it says in the Bible that men should not lay with men like they lay with women. I mean, I don't wanna fuck up and not go to heaven." More recently, he expressed skepticism over Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship and accused the President of having staged mass shootings across the country in order to promote an anti-gun agenda. Rock on, dude.
8. Joseph Simmons
Joseph Simmons (aka Rev. Run of Run-DMC) not only converted to Christianity, he went so far as to have himself ordained as a Pentecostal minister by his mentor, the always-classy "Prosperity Preacher" E. Bernard Jordan. Not every acolyte can claim the honor of a "Protégé of the Year" award, but Jordan bestowed exactly that title on Simmons in 2004. In return, Simmons gave Jordan a $325,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom, which Jordan then showcased as part of a Rolls-Royce parade in New York City to celebrate his ministry. When it comes to spiritual fulfillment and the shaping of the soul, you can't argue with success. You just can't.
7. Snoop Lion
In 2012, Snoop Dogg announced that a Jamaican priest had renamed him Snoop Lion as part of his conversion to Rastafarianism. In a kind of reverse-Marley (Bob Marley having been baptized a Christian near the end of his life), the rapper began recording reggae songs and made a documentary film and forthcoming album both titled Reincarnated. Of course, Snoop also recently changed his name to DJ Snoopadelic to release a compilation of electronic music, so it's debatable how deep his Rasta roots may actually run. A better question might be, will he ever embrace a lifestyle that doesn't involve smoking weed and hanging out with sexy young things? If he did, that might be evidence of a higher power.
When you're one of the funkiest men on Earth and the leader of some kind of disco army, it's no surprise that you might need some structure in your life. Prince became a Jehovah's Witness in 2001 following a two-year debate with Larry Graham, inventor of the electric slap-bass technique. Prince described this experience as "like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix." While trenchant, this comparison seems almost unnecessary, as it's commonly-accepted wisdom that most people's spiritual lives closely resemble Keanu Reeves movies. Prince is rumored to make occasional door-to-door visits to share his faith with the public. Finding him on your front porch holding a copy of The Watchtower in his purple-clad fingers must be a religious experience in itself.
5. Isaac Hayes
Isaac Hayes was many things throughout his career: session musician for Stax Records, successful soul singer, composer of iconic film themes like Shaft, co-owner of a professional basketball team, actor in classic films such as Escape from New York and Robin Hood: Men in Tights and a cartoon chef on South Park. In 1993, he added "Scientologist" to his résumé. This decision eventually led to one of the most troublingly ridiculous feuds in cartoon/soul history when Trey Parker and Matt Stone made fun of Scientology in a South Park episode and Hayes quit the show in protest. Honestly, can you blame him for defending the deeply-held beliefs that once prompted him to write an album called The Joy of Creating -- The Golden Era Musicians and Friends Play L. Ron Hubbard?
4. Insane Clown Posse
With a following that has been compared to a cult (and classified by the FBI as a gang), Insane Clown Posse are no strangers to religious fervor. They seem to have played the long-con, stringing their fans along for years with a self-made mythology called the Dark Carnival. In 2002, "The Unveiling" revealed that ICP had all-along been encouraging lost souls to follow God, using time-tested evangelical tools like fart jokes, misogyny and songs about cannibalism, murder and necrophilia. One viewing of the film Big Money Hustlas -- or its spiritual sequel Big Money Rustlas -- should be enough to convince anyone that these boys are operating on a whole other level of enlightenment.
3. Cat Stevens
After years of writing earnest songs about the search for peace and belonging in the world, Cat Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu. Calling out to God to save him and reporting that a wave immediately washed him to shore, he converted to Islam soon after. Taking the name Yusuf Islam in December of 1977, he quit the music business for nearly thirty years. Claiming to have misunderstood aspects of his new religion, Yusuf was plagued with controversy, including allegations that he had spoken out in support of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. He later explained that this had been a joke, leading many to wonder if the author of "Peace Train" understood what the words "peace" and "joke" actually mean.
2. Bob Dylan
After crashing his motorcycle on a road near his home in Woodstock, Bob Dylan went into seclusion for a while. He followed this with a decade of musical output largely viewed as uneven. Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus famously asked, "What is this shit?" on hearing Self Portrait in 1970. Although he released the masterpiece Blood on the Tracks in '75, Dylan then mystified his fans further by finding Jesus and telling the world about it on Slow Train Coming in 1979 and Saved in 1980. He soon learned that people weren't wild about his evangelizing. When Dylan began to profess his faith to producer Jerry Wexler during the recording of Slow Train, Wexler answered, "Bob, you're dealing with a 62-year-old Jewish atheist. Let's just make an album."
1. George Harrison
George Harrison may be the poster-boy for musicians who experienced an awakening of religious feeling mid-way through their careers. His -- and the rest of the Fab Four's -- interest in Hinduism, yoga, meditation, Krishna Consciousness and LSD redefined the role of the pop-star in Western culture. Becoming a kind of spiritual leader himself, Harrison dedicated his life to humanitarian causes and promoting a better, more universally-aware mode of living. This could be described in conventional parlance as "really great." He also inspired a generation of wayward youth to expand their minds through experimentation with mind-altering substances. This could be described as "a tricky proposition at best."
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