John Cooper was a music junky. He blames his mother, who taught him to play piano at an early age, but raised in an ultra-conservative Christian home, there was no room for Metallica or even Michael Jackson. Until Cooper found what he thought was a heavy-metal loophole.
“My friend said there’s this Christian band called Petra; your parents will love it,” Cooper told the BGEA. “I fought and fought,” Cooper said. “Finally, my mom said, ‘OK, I’ll take you to the show myself. And when they start praying to the devil, we’re leaving.’
“We went to the show and she became a huge Petra fan. There was an amazing presence of God at that concert and she got it, it was a defining moment in the relationship with my mother.”
The Influence of Memphis: “What Memphis mostly did was help shape my personal identity — in a powerful way. I think that is the reason Skillet is who we are in our lyrics. I grew up in the Bible-belt, in a very traditional and very segregated town. A lot of times it was negative. Rock & Roll was evil, wearing black was evil. Growing up, it felt like everything was evil. Because of that I had to make big decisions on who I wanted to be, what I wanted to stand for and not compromise that. That has caused me to be a person of faith. I’m not embarrassed by my faith in God. I had to solidify who I was at times going against my family or church rules.” My relationship with Memphis is very different than the typical — Elvis and the blues. That’s not the case. I wasn’t allowed to listen to Elvis or the blues.”
“Christian music very much influenced me. The music touches you in a different way because it’s about spiritual things. There’s a soul connection that can really happen. Petra is one of the all-time greats. Stryper is one of the first Christian acts to cross over into the mainstream. I was a big fan of theirs as well.”
It is amazing how Christian music has changed over the years, I was Petra’s tour mgr. back in the day and I am reasonably sure that I was there when John Cooper attended our show in Memphis with his mother.
Fast forward to today, Skillet is one of the most popular bands today, selling out arenas everywhere (on hold right now with the pandemic). Also, the tremendous input of Kanye’s music on today’s Christian music scene. I am very privileged to be part of this new generation of believers and also to have been involved in the history of this musical progression.