Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Rich Mullins. To mark the occasion, a number of artists got together to record a variety of his songs for the Bellsburg album. The Kickstarter project also gave backers access to deeper cuts by other artists as well as access to a number of other unreleased, concert songs (that have mostly aged well). It feels like a good way to mark the time.
Over at Plough, Beth McGrew posted a nice piece about Rich with lots of good links to songs and other materials. It’s a good piece: fair and honest. Rich’s was a personality that could easily rub someone the wrong way. He was brutally honest in his songwriting in a way that few others were (or have been since). There’s a deep longing in his writing that more polished musicians haven’t really been able to achieve. (The closest is likely Andrew Peterson, who records the opening song on Bellsburg). See “Cry the Name” and “Hard to Get.” But there was also deep joy and beautiful instrumentation: there’s so much good piano music in his concert footage.
I have often wondered what things would be like musically if Rich was still around. Contemporary Christian music has changed a great deal in the last twenty-five years. American Christianity has changed a lot, too. Rich’s legacy is like a time-capsule that you keep getting to open up, a thing to visit frequently, not to feel good about yourself or to mourn a by-gone era, but to be challenged in a way that feels more and more rare these days.