Keith Gordon Green (, 1953 ??? , 1982) was an American gospel singer, songwriter, musician, and Contemporary Christian Music artist originally from Sheepshead Bay, New York. Green is best known for his strong devotion to Christian evangelism and encouraging others to the same. Notable songs written by Green and/or his wife, Melody Green, include "Your Love Broke Through," "You Put This Love In My Heart," and "Asleep In The Light," as well as the popular modern hymns "O Lord, You're Beautiful" and "There Is A Redeemer."
Keith took to music at a young age, beginning with the ukulele at age three, the guitar at five, and the piano at seven years of age. His talents were noted by a major newspaper by the time he was only eight years old. Following a performance of Arthur Laurents' The Time of the Cuckoo, a local review by the Los Angeles Times wrote that "roguish-looking, eight-year-old Keith Green gave a winning portrayal" as "the little Italian street urchin, Mauro"; another review commented that he "stole the show". The show was Keith's first appearance in live theater, which was held in Chatsworth, California, in September 1962. According to the LA Times, Keith had already "done a number of television commercials and...made a TV pilot."
At 10 years old, Green went on to play the role of "Kurt von Trapp" in a local community theatre production of The Sound of Music at the Valley Music Theater in Woodland Hills, California.
Keith Green's first disc release. The other side has the song The Way I Used To Be.
In February 1965, with forty original songs already under his belt, Green and his father Harvey signed a five-year contract with Decca Records with Harvey as business manager. The first song released on disc was The Way I Used to Be in May 1965 (produced by Gary Usher), which he had earlier composed and published before signing on with Decca. Upon publication of this song, Green became the youngest person ever to sign with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Decca Records planned to make Green a teen idol, regularly getting the young pre-teenager featured in fanzines like Teen Scene and on popular television shows like The Jack Benny Show and The Steve Allen Show. The television game show I've Got a Secret made an exception to his age of eleven and hosted him on the show (May 3, 1965) with his secret, "I just signed a five-year contract as a rock-'n'-roll singer," and ended his segment with a live performance of We'll Do a Lot of Things Together.
By the time Green was twelve, he had written ten more songs, and Time magazine ran a short piece about Green in an article about aspiring young rock-'n'-roll singers, referring to him as Decca Records' "prepubescent dreamboat". However, after national attention envisioned by Decca Records failed to materialize for Keith, Donny Osmond captured the attention of pre-teens and teenagers, eclipsing Keith's newfound stardom, and Keith was quickly forgotten by the public.
Keith had a Jewish and Christian Science background, but grew up reading the New Testament. He called it "an odd combination" that left him open minded but deeply unsatisfied. His journey led him to drugs, South Asian mysticism, and "free love." After experiencing what Green described as a "bad trip," he abandoned drug use and became bitter towards philosophy and theology in general. Green would later state, however, that in the midst of his skepticism, he felt that God "broke through calloused heart," and he became a born-again Christian. Soon afterward, Keith's wife Melody (whom he had married on Christmas Day 1973) also became a born-again Christian. It was during this time that the newlyweds became involved with the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Southern California.
In 1975, the Greens began an outreach program in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California, in the San Fernando Valley. Purchasing the home next door to their own and renting an additional five in the same neighborhood, Keith and Melody provided a environment of Christian teaching for a group of young adults, the majority of whom were of college age. Much to the consternation of neighbors, those living in the Green's homes included former drug addicts, the homeless and even some prostitutes who had been referred to the Greens by other ministries and shelters. In 1977, the Greens outreach was officially named Last Days Ministries.
Keith Green's initial tone of ministry was largely influenced by Leonard Ravenhill, who pointed Keith to Charles Finney, a nineteenth century revivalist preacher who preached the law of God to provoke conviction in his hearers. During his concerts he would often exhort his listeners to repent and commit themselves more wholly to following Christ. Green later softened his approach, and this transition is evident in his music beginning with So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt in 1980.
Green was signed to Contemporary Christian music label Sparrow Records in 1976 and worked on the album Firewind (1976) with Christian artists 2nd Chapter of Acts, Terry Talbot, John Michael Talbot, and Barry McGuire. His first solo project, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, was released in 1977 and his second solo release, No Compromise, followed in 1978.
In 1979, after negotiating a release from his contract with Sparrow, Green initiated a new policy of refusing to charge money for concerts or albums. Keith and Melody mortgaged their home to privately finance Green's next album, So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt. The album, which featured a guest appearance by Bob Dylan, was offered through mail-order and at concerts for a price determined by the purchaser. As of May 1982, Green had shipped out more than 200,000 units of his album ??? 61,000 for free. Subsequent albums included The Keith Green Collection (1981) and Songs For The Shepherd (1982).
When his music was carried by Christian bookstores, a second cassette was included free of charge for every cassette purchased to give away to a friend to help spread the Gospel.
Last Days Ministries
In 1978, Last Days Ministries (LDM) began publishing the Last Days Newsletter. Originally printed on a few pages of loose paper, the newsletter grew in content to eventually become a "small, colorful magazine," and was renamed in mid-1985 as Last Days Magazine. The magazine featured articles by Green and his wife as well as contemporary Christian authors David Wilkerson, Leonard Ravenhill, and Winkie Pratney, all of whom lived in the area. The publication also later included the reprinted works of classic Christian authors such as Charles Finney, John Wesley, and William Booth and his wife Catherine. Most of the articles were reprinted as tracts. At the peak of its popularity, the Last Days Magazine was sent out to over 300,000 people worldwide.
In 1979, the ministry relocated from the San Fernando Valley to a 40-acre (160,000 m2) plot of land in Garden Valley, Texas, a crossroads community about nine miles (14 km) west of Lindale, Texas. Within a few years, Last Days purchased additional land, bringing the total to 140 acres (0.6 km2).
Gravesite at Garden Valley Cemetery
Along with eleven others, Keith Green died on , 1982, when the Cessna 414 leased by Last Days Ministries crashed after takeoff from the private airstrip located on the LDM property. The small two-engine plane was carrying eleven passengers and the pilot, Don Burmeister, for an aerial tour of the LDM property and the surrounding area. Green and two of his children, three year old Josiah, and two year old Bethany, were on board the plane, along with visiting missionaries John and Dede Smalley and their six children.
Among several causes, the NTSB determined that the crash was largely due to aircraft gross weight overload. It was determined that the pilot, should have refused to take five more passengers than there were seats on the plane. As Burmaster was a former United States Marine Corps aviator, the NTSB concluded that since military requirements put weight and balance responsibilities on the loadmaster of the flight and not the pilot, the pilot may have neglected this responsibility by former habit. With eleven passengers on board, the aircraft was overloaded by nearly 450 pounds (202 kg) and laden center of gravity was located 4.5 inches (110 mm) past the maximum aft limit. Also considered in the final ruling was the fact that operator and pilot did not satisfy insurance requirements for aircraft familiarization for operation, and pilot's failure of several checkrides, leading to the revocation of Burmaster's license shortly before the accident.
Keith, Josiah, and Bethany Green are interred at Garden Valley Cemetery behind the Garden Valley Baptist Church, less than a half-mile from the LDM property. He was survived by his wife and two daughters, the youngest of whom was born after Green's death.
Two full albums of original Green songs were released posthumously: The Prodigal Son (1983) and Jesus Commands Us to Go! (1984). Another release, I Only Want to See You There (1983) contained mostly previously released material. A complete volume of his work, The Ministry Years, was released in 1987 and 1988, including a few more previously unreleased songs.
Another unreleased Christian song known to have been recorded by Green was "Born Again," which was finally released in 1999, 17 years after his death, on the First Love compilation video and CD. Both feature a two-song tribute to Green by other Christian artists.
In 2008, Last Days Ministries and Sparrow Records partnered together and released The Live Experience - Special Edition, a CD+DVD combination of 16 live recordings and 4 hours of DVD footage including video of live performances as well as details regarding Green's life and his passing. A "Greatest Hits" album was also released at the same time, including 17 of Green's most popular songs and one more previously unreleased Christian song, "Your Love Came Over Me".
A prolific personal journalist, Green's writings were published as excerpts in the books A Cry In The Wilderness (Sparrow, 1993), If You Love the Lord (Harvest House, 2000), and Make My Life a Prayer (Harvest House, 2001).
In 1992, several artists joined together to re-record many of Green's best-known songs for a tribute album called No Compromise: Remembering the Music of Keith Green under the Sparrow Records label. Artists contributing to the recording include Petra, Charlie Peacock, Susan Ashton, Margaret Becker, Michael Card, GLAD, Rich Mullins, Steven Curtis Chapman, Steve Green, and Russ Taff.
In 2001, BEC Records released a second, more modern, tribute record Start Right Here: Remembering the Life of Keith Green. Produced by Derri Daugherty, the album included performances by new contemporary Christian artists MxPx, Joy Electric, Starflyer 59, among others.
At the twentieth anniversary of Keith's death, Sparrow Records released yet another tribute album, Your Love Broke Through: The Worship Songs of Keith Green. The 2002 album contains re-recordings by Rebecca St. James, Michelle Tumes, Chris Tomlin, Twila Paris, Darlene Zschech, Jason Upton, Martin Smith, Charlie Hall, Joanne Hogg, Matt Redman, Paul Oakley, and Sarah Sadler. The album contains contemporary Christian and mainstream artist Michael W. Smith's version of the song There Is One, an unfinished work by Keith Green. Composition of the song was completed by Smith, along with British songwriter and Christian music artist Martin Smith.
Last Days Ministries
Green Hall dormitory, originally part of LDM property, was named after Keith Green when Teen Mania purchased the property in 1996
The LDM property was sold in 1996 and is now occupied by Teen Mania Ministries. Teen Mania has dedicated one of its dormitories, Green Hall, in memory of Keith. Melody Green continues to operate Last Days Ministries from Oceanside, California, and is a well-known speaker and author. With David Hazard, she authored a biography of Keith, No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green (Harvest House Publishers, 1989; revised and expanded in 2000; revised and expanded again and released by Thomas Nelson in 2008; also on the Compact Disc version of The Ministry Years, Volume Two album).
On November 27, 2001, Keith Green was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
On April 3, 2006, Green was honored with the ASCAP Crescendo Award at the 28th annual ASCAP Christian Music Awards presentation dinner. His widow, Melody Green, was present to receive the award for her late husband.
"It's time to quit playing church and start being the Church (Matt. 18:20)" ??? Keith Green, as quoted by Melody Green in the introduction to A Cry in the Wilderness, Sparrow Press, 1993.
"I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy or to sell out more completely to Jesus!" ??? Keith Green
"You shouldn't go to college unless God has definitely called you to go." ??? Keith Green, 'Why YOU should go to the mission field', 1982
"No Compromise is what the whole Gospel of Jesus is all about... 'For I tell you...no man can serve two masters...' (Matt. 6:24). In a day when believers seem to be trying to please both the world and the Lord (which is an impossible thing), when people are far more concerned about offending their friends than offending God, there is only one answer...Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him!" ??? Keith Green, No Compromise album, 1978.
"He, being dead, yet speaketh." ??? Leonard Ravenhill, Keith's mentor, borrowing from Hebrews 11:4 (KJV) in his 1990 2-page Memories of Keith tribute from a computer file, part of the Enhanced CD version of No Compromise by Melody Green with David Hazard.