Music Ruled My Life
As told by Gordon Grant
THERE was an old upright piano in our family living room. As soon as I was big enough to climb up on the bench I was trying to play it. By the time I was perhaps four or five years of age, my grandmother would take me to concerts, which I enjoyed very much. And at the age of six my parents started me with piano lessons.
I took to the piano right away and made rapid progress. Soon I was entertaining in the home and at school concerts. My early training was in classical music, but as I entered my teen years I started developing an interest in jazz. I liked dixieland jazz at first, but later on I became interested in the more contemporary styles. At that time, in the mid-1950’s, rock ’n’ roll started to gain great popularity among the young people of my age. But I found it repetitious and overly simple. To me, the words were mindless and the performers amateurish. So I continued to pursue my interest in jazz. I had friends who also liked to play jazz, and soon we were performing for school parties. We spent whole afternoons in jazz sessions at my parents’ house.
All through my school years music had been an enjoyable diversion, but I never seriously considered it as a career. In fact, in 1958 I entered Central Oklahoma State College as a mathematics major. I quickly made contact with the musicians in the school. They were playing for school dances and also working jobs in the Oklahoma City area. They asked me to join them, and soon I was playing regularly on weekends. As time passed we took work in local nightclubs.
My Methodist background failed to protect me. As a consequence, my moral convictions soon crumbled when I got into college, and I started living the nightlife with my fellow musicians.
Peer Pressure and Drugs
I developed quite a liking for alcohol and frequently got drunk during my college days. For a while I resisted the temptation to use drugs, but before long I was pressured by my jazz friends into trying marijuana. I found that I liked it a lot and started a habit that lasted for about 10 years. I used amphetamines occasionally for a lift but never got really involved in “uppers” or any other sort of “hard” drugs. But I was a regular, daily user of marijuana. With very few exceptions all the musicians I knew in the Oklahoma City nightclub scene also used it. Many of us even grew our own.
When I finished college in 1963 I went on the road with a group out of Dallas, all heavy marijuana users. Later on I played with a nightclub act from Toronto. We worked in cities throughout the western United States. I found that the drug situation in Oklahoma City was true everywhere. Among nightclub musicians the use of drugs is almost universal.
By 1968 I was back in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, some of my friends had settled in Los Angeles and were encouraging me to come on out. Since that city provided a much broader range of opportunities for a musician to work, I decided to make the move. While my original intention was simply to work as a free-lance musician, my friends had formed a rock group and were intent on trying to make it big in the pop-music scene.
The rock music of the late 1960’s had become more sophisticated and was much more interesting to me than the earlier rock ’n’ roll had been. The opportunity to work in the recording studios and make big money also had its appeal.
Music and Spiritism
It was toward the end of the hippie era, and everybody was getting involved in Eastern religion as well as astrology and other occult practices. As always, drugs were everywhere. Of course, the music was very much an expression of this philosophy and life-style.
Our group was no exception. We took a keen interest in astrology. Once we went to a spiritist to have our individual and group fortunes told. We would consult the I Ching (an Oriental book of divination). Our circle of friends included gurus and witches. Strangely, I did not consider us to be heavily into spiritism, compared to others around us. Somewhat as a joke we named our group “Mephistopheles” (a demon in the Faust legend). On our album cover we had strange, distorted representations of ourselves.
Thinking back to that time it is certainly easy to see what a strong influence drugs and spiritism had on music. It is no surprise that today, 10 years later, demonism, Satanism and immorality are rampant in popular music. I can also see the course that my own life had taken and can only imagine where I might have ended up if certain things had not happened in the spring of 1969.
A New Outlook on Life
Many of the astrologers were predicting a great earthquake on the west coast of the United States in April of 1969. Conveniently, most in our group were out of town at that time. We decided it was a good time for a visit back to Oklahoma. Well, the earthquake never came, but we still felt from what we could see around us that some great upheaval was near. We had in mind to make a lot of money and move to the mountains before everything went up in smoke.
Shortly after I returned from Oklahoma, two of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at my door. They started showing me from the Bible that we were in fact living in the last days and that the end of the system was near. (Matthew 24:3-42) I think they were surprised at how quickly I accepted the fact that the world order was doomed. Hearing that God was going to make the whole earth into a Paradise where man could live forever sounded very good. However, because of my earlier association with Christendom, I had lost faith in the Bible and was suspicious of anything claiming to be Christian. But I was curious, and the Witnesses obviously knew their Bible. So I agreed to a regular study of the Bible.
At first there were selfish considerations. I could see the kind of standards that the Bible required of those who wanted to be real Christians. (Matthew 16:24; John 4:23; James 4:4) Then there was the music that thus far had ruled my life. While there is no prohibition in the Bible against making one’s living by music, I could see that my situation would make pursuing such a career very difficult. I knew what dedication meant, since I had been dedicated to music for so many years. I also knew that the words of Jesus are true: “No one can slave for two masters.”—Matthew 6:24.
A Change of Emphasis
In time I became convinced that the Bible really is the Word of God. I also began to grow in my love for Jehovah and in the desire to serve him. I wanted life in the New Order that he has promised. (Titus 1:2) Up until that time, my whole life had revolved around music, but now it would have to play a secondary role.
In February of 1971 I was baptized and in September of the same year I began serving full time as a pioneer minister in Hollywood, California. Two other former members of “Mephistopheles” and two of our close associates also became Jehovah’s Witnesses. I still continued to work as a musician, but I had to be very careful that the work I accepted did not get me involved in things that I had come to appreciate were condemned by God. I also started taking work as a cleaner and chauffeur to sustain me in my ministry.
In 1973 I was invited to serve at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. That is where I have been ever since. Although it has been some years since I was involved in the music business, I still play and share with others the music that I enjoy, both at Christian meetings and on social occasions with my fellow Witnesses. I know other Witnesses who have continued making their living in music and have been successful both as musicians and as Christian ministers. But they have been able to do this only by keeping music in its proper place. Their first love is their dedication to Jehovah and his service. Also, they have been very careful to guard themselves against the thinking and ways of their non-Christian fellow musicians.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
Now I look forward to the time when music will be played and enjoyed outside the influence of a corrupt, immoral system. Then God’s righteous principles will pervade the earth and all music will be upbuilding, a source of praise to Jehovah.—Isaiah 11:9; 54:13; Psalm 135:3.
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Fifteen years ago
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. . . and today