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Top 10 Quotes About Rock and Religion

Ozzy Osbourne
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Discussing religion with rock stars isn’t too different from talking about it with anyone else. You’ll find the same variety of true believers, atheists and everyone in between. It’s just that rock stars — whether they left pop music to preach or they’re knee-deep in black magic — tend to talk about God and the devil in much more interesting terms. Need proof? Check out our list of the Top 10 Quotes About Rock and Religion.


Brian Johnson
 

As frontman for hard-rock titans AC/DC, Johnson has certainly endured plenty of talk over the years about his band being devil worshipers (performing 'Highway to Hell' apparently makes them easy targets). But Johnson is able to laugh it off: “They’d say, ‘If you play the record backwards, you can hear evil things like 'grrrr!'’ and I would think, ‘Geez, I didn’t know the devil sounded like that. I thought he was coherent like the rest of us.’” (2001, Clash Magazine)

 
Pete Townshend
 

The brains behind the Who has never shied away from talking religion (or, you know, anything else). Since the late-'60s, Townshend has been a disciple of Indian mystic Meher Baba and has worked spiritual themes into 'Tommy' and in songs like 'Bargain' and 'Let My Love Open the Door.' He wrote about his 'God moment' in his autobiography: “In a room of a Holiday Inn in an Illinois town called Rolling Meadows…I heard the voice of God. In an instant, in a very ordinary place at an unexceptional time, I yearned for some connection with a higher power. This was a singular, momentous epiphany – a call to the heart. Why did God favor this particular place in America? Because it was so new? Because it was so sunny? Suddenly it became clear that I longed for a transcendent connection with the universe itself and with its maker. This was the moment I had longed for. My mind was being set alight by the psychedelic times, but revelation came to me in the quietude and seductive order of Middle America.” (2012, 'Who I Am')

 
Led Zeppelin
8
 
 

There have always been rumors about Led Zeppelin being a "Satanic band," no doubt spurred on by Page's fascination with black magic and, in particular, occultist Aleister Crowley. He reflected on this long after Zep had broken up: “I was living it. That’s all there is to it. It was my life – that fusion of magick and music...Yes, I knew what I was doing. There’s no point in saying about it, because the more you discuss it, the more eccentric you appear to be. But the fact is – as far as I was concerned – it was working, so I used it...I’ll leave this subject by saying the four musical elements of Led Zeppelin making a fifth is magick into itself. That’s the alchemical process.” (2007, Guitar World)

 
Bob Dylan
7
 
 

The bard of rock 'n' roll was raised Jewish but underwent a high-profile conversion to Christianity in the late '70s. For a period, Bob Dylan recorded only religious songs and refused to play his previous work in concert. Later on, he found a different sort of spirituality in music: “Here’s the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don’t find it anywhere else. Songs like ‘Let Me Rest on a Peaceful Mountain’ or ‘I Saw the Light’ – that’s my religion. I don’t adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I’ve learned more from the songs than I’ve learned from any of this kind of entity. The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs.” (1997, Newsweek)

 
Prince
6
 
 

Casual Prince fans might not realize that this provocative artist has always worked spirituality into his music. Sometimes it's just in code -- the elevator in 'Let's Go Crazy' represents the devil, he once explained. At about the time he became a Jehovah's Witness, he said: “You've gotta have belief. It’s the only way to make it through this maze. And God is here, he’s everywhere, he ain’t dead, contrary to popular opinion. And he will come again, and it will be the most beautiful, powerful, electric moment -- the sky’s gonna go all purple and red. I’ve always imagined angels and demons fighting, like two people arguing. You’ve got to battle it out.” (1998, Times Magazine)

 
Ozzy Osbourne
 

Between Black Sabbath's "devil-worshipping" songs and referring to himself as "the prince of darkness," Ozzy's done plenty to associate himself with the occult. Although he swears he's not the evil creature that some purport, he did think he was Satan's puppet for a while...or maybe it was just the drugs kicking in: “I really wish I knew why I’ve done some of the things I’ve done over the years. Sometimes I think that I’m possessed by some outside spirit. A few years ago, I was convinced of that – I thought I truly was possessed by the devil. I remember sitting through ‘The Exorcist’ a dozen times, saying to myself, ‘Yeah, I can relate to that.’” (1984, Hit Parader)

 
Bono
4
 
 

U2's songs have almost always leaned toward the spiritual, and Bono is one of rock's great evangelists. A few years ago, he wrote about the differences between religion and belief: “I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays, while my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God. For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land…and in this country, America, seeing God’s second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash. In fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteous roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment. I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.” (2006, On the Move)

 
Alice Cooper
 

Alice Cooper may have given fans their greatest shock when he came out as a Christian -- making clear the stark differences between the evil character he plays onstage and his real life. He's never given up rock 'n' roll -- just the sex and drugs part. “It doesn’t matter how many drugs I take, I’m not fulfilled. This isn’t satisfying. There’s a spiritual hunger going on. Everybody feels it. If you don’t feel it now, you will. Trust me. You will...Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s the real rebellion.” (2000, KNAC.com)

 
Neil Young
2
 
 

This pantheist rock legend is pretty cool with any religious beliefs, but less so with organized religion. Neil Young's take on God, the devil and rock 'n' roll might be the definitive quote on the subject: “Rock 'n' roll is everybody’s f---in’ music...I would certainly hope that it’s the devil’s music, but it’s not just the devil’s music. I think that’s where God and the devil shake hands – right there.” (2002, 'Shakey: Neil Young's Biography')

 
John Lennon
 

What else could be No. 1 on the Top 10 Quotes About Rock and Religion than this chestnut from Lennon's Fab days? By comparing the Beatles to Jesus, Lennon created a (sometimes literal) firestorm around his group. The quote still stands as one of the most controversial things ever said by a rock musician, and "bigger than Jesus" became a rock 'n' roll touchstone: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that. I'm right, and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first -- rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." (1966, London Evening Standard)

 

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