It’s been 40 years. July 28th, marks the fortieth anniversary of passionate singer songwriter evangelist Keith Green died in a plane crash at the age of twenty-eight. I was barely born, and much like another musical hero Rich Mullins didn’t fully come to his work until later in my formative years. I would go back to his individual albums as I grew older and my interest in the history of Christian music expanded beyond the 90s. It was his first and only compilation released in his lifetime (1981) titled The Keith Green Collection that was my first real introduction to his catalogue. Although, now that I say that…I’m having a thought…I think my parents had a copy of So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt on vinyl that I probably heard prior to my teen years. We used to play it on one of those huge floor units that my grandparents owned. My memory is foggy of when I first heard his hits collection, but it almost certainly had to be my parents copy of the cassette tape that I probably stole at some point.
I read his biography (No Compromise) in my college years, and much like the passionate and poetic Rich Mullins, I was inspired by his sold-out lifestyle to the gospel. He became a minister, he started Last Days Ministries (which continues on to this day) and he was the first (to my knowledge) to charge whatever people could afford for his albums and concerts, even giving away many for free. Ultimately he did what the sermon on the mount called all Christian to go and do. He was an inspiring man, and I often wonder how different Christian music would have been if he and Rich Mullins had lived to a ripe old age and continued making music.
Anyway, as I’ve spent many more years with his catalogue, I’ve come to love a wider variety of his songs. Especially his 1977 debut For Those Who Have Ears, with nearly every song being a classic it’s makes for my #7 all time Christian Record of all-time…which you can read on this list: 100 Greatest Christian Albums of All-Time (1969-2019)
So…in honor of Keith and his fantastic though all-too-short-discography, here are my Top 20: Keith Green Songs.
20. “Easter Song” – For Him Who has Ears (1977)
19. “You Are the One” – Songs for the Shepherd (1982)
18. “Make My Life a Prayer to You” – No Compromise (1978)
17. “Run to the End of the Highway” – Jesus Commands Us to Go! (1984)
16. “I Want To Be More Like Jesus” – So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt (1980)
15. “Sheep and the Goats” – Keith Green Collection (1993)
14. “You!” – No Compromise (1978)
13. “There is a Redeemer” – Songs for the Shepherd (1982)
12. “Soften Your Heart” – No Compromise (1978)
11. “Because of You” – For Him Who has Ears (1977)
10. “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt” – So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt (1980)
The sarcastic humor here captivated me at a young age, as much of CCM I had heard to that point was very straight laced and serious. He showed me you could make a point and have fun with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
9. “Oh Lord You’re Beautiful” – So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt (1980)
Earnest and sincere worship.
8. “My Eyes Are Dry” – No Compromise (1978)
Confessional and convicting.
7. “He’ll Take Care of the Rest” – For Him Who has Ears (1977)
Bouncy and joyfully reminding us of our dependency on Christ.
6. “Lies” – So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt (1980)
This one is practically jaunty in tone even though he’s warning listeners not to believe the lies of the enemy.
5. “Your love Broke Through” – For Him Who has Ears (1977)
Sweeping and emotional this is probably one of the first songs I heard from Green.
4. “Asleep in the Light” – No Compromise (1978)
Speaking of convincing and convicting , this one carries with it the prophetic edge of his two early albums that he learned to soften a bit nearer the end of his life.
3. “Grace By Which I Stand” – So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt (1980)
If not for the one-two combo of my #1 and #2 this would have been my number one.
2. “You Put This Love in My Heart” – Keith Green Collection (1993)
It has to be this version that flows from my #1 below into the piano vamping that he does. It’s just a great moment.
1. “Rushing Wind” – Keith Green Collection (1993)
I love the earnestly pleading in his voice, it’s desperate in all the right ways.
Playlist to listen along: Top 20 Keith Green Songs
What about you? What’s your favorite Keith Green song(s)? Let me know in the comments!