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Monday, July 5, 2010

The Life and Career of the Newsboys

Throughout their twenty-five year career, the Newsboys have been one of the most popular Christian rock bands of all time. They have twenty #1 Christian rock singles and been Grammy nominated four times. The Newsboys have been featured on many magazines including Newsweek, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Guitar Player, and Modern Drummer, and they have been featured on many television shows on channels such as VH1, CBS, ESPN, CNN, E!, and PBS. The Newsboys have five gold albums, and they have sold over six million records worldwide. They have also played a live show at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But, before they began their immense success in the Christian scene, the Newsboys were formed to humble beginnings in 1985 in Australia under their original name The News. They began their career playing local shows in church basements and pubs around Australia. They soon moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and changed their name to the Newsboys, in order to avoid conflict with the band Huey Lewis and the News.

In 1988, they released their debut album, Read All About It, on Refuge Communication Records. This album features the core members of John James (lead vocalist), Sean Taylor (bassist), Peter Furler (drums), and Phil Yates (guitarist). This album actually turned out to be a flop and the record company soon dropped the band.

The Newsboys were then picked up by the label Star Song, and the Newsboys released two more albums in the next three years. Hell is For Wimps and Boyz Will Be Boyz once again enjoyed little success for the band.

Here is the music video for the song Simple Man off the album Hell is For Wimps. This is the first video ever made by the Newsboys.

Finally, after a number of lineup changes, the Newsboys' big break came in 1992 when they released the album Not Ashamed. The title track went on to be their first number one single on Christian Radio.

After the popularity of Not Ashamed, the Newsboys' reputation continued to grow. Their next two albums, Going Public released in 1994 and Take Me To Your Leader released in 1996, both went on to be gold albums and each featured many number one hits. Going Public featured four #1 hits including: Shine, Spirit Thing, Truth and Consequences, and Real Good Thing. The album Take Me To Your Leader featured three #1 singles including the songs: Take Me To Your Leader, Reality, and Let Go. Both of these albums feature arguably their two most famous and popular songs of all time: Shine, and Breakfast.

Here is the music video for the #1 single Take Me to Your Leader.

After the immense popularity beginning to grow for the band, their lead singer, John James, decided to leave the Newsboys in 1998. Peter Furler, the drummer and back up singer for the band, decided to take his place.

In 1998, the Newsboys released their seventh album and first album featuring Peter Furler as lead vocalist. Also in the album, Step Up to the Microphone, Phil Joel, the bassist for the band, stepped in for backing vocals. The percussionist, Duncan Phillips, also moved his position in the band to full time drummer. With this album, the Newsboys combined the efforts of their last two albums. Step Up to the Microphone featured the ballads that made Going Public popular and it also featured the driving rock songs that made Take Me to Your Leader a national hit. This album featured four #1 singles on Christian radio charts including the songs: Believe, Woohoo, Step Up to the Microphone, and Entertaining Angels.

Here is the video for the hit song Entertaining Angels.

Their next album, Love Liberty Disco, came a year later in 1999. This album was very different stylistically and musically than anything the Newsboys had done before. As the title suggests, most of the songs fit into disco music stylistically. Not all the songs are disco songs, some of the tracks are vintage Newsboys pop rock songs. A Beautiful Sound, Good Stuff, and Forever Man are classic Newsboys songs.

This is the official music video for Love Liberty Disco.

After the Love Liberty Disco album, the Newsboys took their biggest break between records in their career. It took three years before they released their next album, Thrive. This was another very different album for the band. Yes, they had their usual driving pop rock sound, but they also incorporated worship music into their album for the first time in their career. Songs such as It is You, Thrive, and Lord I Don’t Know helped usher in a new worship era for the band.

This next music video is a song all about kissing your cares goodbye and giving them to the Lord. Here is Million Pieces.

For their next two albums, the Newsboys decided to delve into the world of worship music. Both, Adoration released in 2003 and Devotion released in 2004, were a major contrast to the Newsboys sound. These albums were free of driving pop rock music and in its place filled with meaningful worship songs. On these two albums, the Newsboys did covers of many popular worship songs including: Amazing Love, In Christ Alone, Blessed Be Your Name, Name Above All Names, and When the Tears Fall. Both albums weren’t all covers, each record also featured some of the most popular Newsboys songs of all time. He Reigns and My Heart’s Desire could rank up there in popularity with Breakfast and Shine. In 2003, after the release of Adoration, long time guitarist Jody Davis was forced to leave the band in order to take care of his sick daughter. Bryan Olesen took his place for only one album. After the release of Devotion, Olesen left the band to start his own Christian rock band called Vota.

Here is one of their most famous worship songs, He Reigns.

After delving into the world of worship, Newsboys decided to combine worship and rock and roll for their next two albums. Go released in 2006 and In the Hands of God released in 2009 featured both pop rock and beautiful worship ballads. Go features pop rock songs like Wherever We Go and Your Love is Better than Life and worship songs such as In Wonder and I Am Free. In the Hands of God features rock songs like The Way We Roll and My Friend Jesus and worship songs such as Glorious, and Lead Me to the Cross.

Paul Colman replaced Olesen in the album Go as the lead guitarist. But, after a short stint with the band, he soon leaves to pursue his own solo career. After his daughter’s recovery and a six year hiatus from the band, Jody Davis returned to the Newsboys in 2009. He was the guitarist for the In the Hands of God album and he is currently the Newsboys lead guitarist. In the Hands of God is also the first album that did not feature long time bassist and back up singer Phil Joel. He left the band shortly after the release of Go to pursue a solo career.

This next video is from the album Go, it is called Something Beautiful.

Newsboys have also lent their musical talents to the Christian kids television show Veggietales. They were featured on the Veggie Rocks cd along with many other well known Christian rock artists including: Audio Adrenaline, Skillet, Relient K, Sanctus Real, Superchick, O.C. Supertones, and many more. The Newsboys recorded the song In the Belly of the Whale for the Veggie Rocks cd. The song is also featured on the Jonah Veggie Tales official soundtrack.

Not only are the Newsboys known for their pop rock albums, they are also known for their amazing live shows. The Newsboys started the traveling Christian music festival in 2001 called Festival Con Dios, which means Festival with God. The tour ran for three years, until 2003, and featured many well known Christian bands including Audio Adrenaline, Switchfoot, Pillar, TobyMac, Skillet, Plus One, and more.

Throughout their career, the Newsboys have toured with many well known Christian bands including Code of Ethics, Plankeye, Third Day, Sonicflood, Jeremy Camp, Rebecca St. James, Kutless, Stellar Kart, Rush of Fools, DecembeRadio, and Seventh Day Slumber. In their live shows, they are also known for an amazing drum solo. The drummer, Duncan Phillips, will play a drum solo while on a platform that rises in the air, tilts downward 90 degrees and spins around. Since the platform is tilted downwards, Duncan is forced to wear two different harnesses in order to keep him strapped to his seat.

Here is a short video of Duncan Phillips performing the drum solo live.

In 2009, the only founding member remaining in the band, Peter Furler, decided to leave the Newsboys after a twenty-four year career with the group. He wanted to take a more supportive role and write and produce songs for the band.

According to Stereotruth.com, this is what Peter Furler had to say about his departure. “Newsboys to me has always been a mission, and I entrust Mike, Jeff, Jody and Duncan to continue all that is in store for us as a band. I’m looking forward to focusing on the band’s studio career and spending time in my own bed after many years in a tour bus and hundreds of thousands of miles on the road.”

Since his departure, Furler has also gone on to be a professional oil painter. He has many paintings on regular canvas and he also has many paintings on drum heads. Many of his works are featured in offices and recording studios across the country.

His replacement was a long time friend of the band, Michael Tait. Michael Tait is a former member of the highly awarded and publicized Christian rock band DC Talk and he was also the lead singer of the band Tait.

The Newsboys have announced their latest album will be released on July 13, 2010. This will be the first album with Michael Tait as the lead vocalist.

Here is the title track off their album, it is called Born Again.

The Newsboys’ career has defined this generation of Christian rock music. Through many member changes, six different guitarists, two bassists, two keyboardists, and three lead vocalists, the Newsboys are still going strong after twenty-five years.

Peter Furler said it best when he described the Newsboys in their official biography. He said, “If you aren’t making music from the right place, then it won’t be authentic, people will not connect with it, and your record will be sitting on a shelf. On the other hand, if you write from that place of true passion, without trying to make something commercial or forced, then the result will be natural. People will be drawn to it.”

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