Take a look: The Vast Online Rich Mullins LIbrary
When the Rich Mullins demos/rarities/bootleg album Here in America came out a decade or so ago I remember thinking "This is great, but surely there's more. Surely he's got more unreleased songs than this and surely there are more recordings of him playing live." It seemed to me this was a great start, the first release of many like recordings in the same vein as the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. But of course we've heard nothing since—at least not in an official capacity...
Because here's what's really amazing: in the past few years there have been a fan driven movement to "release" scores of rarely heard Rich Mullins material in the form of demos, live recordings, interviews, and talks onto Youtube.
And this doesn't stop with Rich Mullins. If you're a someone like me and loves Contemporary Christian pop/rock/folk music, Youtube has a wealth of media to offer you. My particular interests lie in the work of Mullins and Keith Green, but I'm sure there are tons of videos for both famous and obscure Christian artists. I haven't checked yet, but I can guarantee you I'd have plenty to watch and listen to from the likes of Larry Norman, Daniel Amos, The Prayer Chain, Starflyer 59, Steve Camp, Phil Keaggy, the list goes on... This includes interviews, talks, and live performances and not just "official" music videos (put up unofficially by fans who uploaded VHS tapes dubbed off of TV and from the 80's and 90's).
I think artists within the Christian music industry are in a sad place as basically all of the classic CCM acts have no official Youtube channel wherein to upload high quality "official" versions of their videos. By doing this, whoever is left in the Christian music industry is ensuring the music created in the past few decades will not go on to influence the coming generations. CCM will fade into obscurity. So, whereas a legendary band like Queen has an official Youtube page with all their videos on it (thus documenting their historic career and putting it in a place my kids can watch it), CCM bands like Steve Taylor, REZ Band, Stryper, and PFR (to name the first that came into my head), are left depending on their fans to upload their videos. Is this how it should be? I think not.
And yet we have the fans, and many of them are giving us invaluable gifts that were previously left on their shelves in the form of decaying VHS tapes. So it turns out if you're like me and you've been obsessed with Rich Mullins most of your life there is this vast media library out there waiting for you to explore and I wanted to share it with you today.
I want to be clear on something: I've basically listened to and watched none of this stuff myself yet. Life is busy and I've ended up watching other things lately or I end up working on this blog or—strange enough!—actually talking to my wife in the evenings. But that's ok, all these rarely heard Rich Mullins songs are sitting there waiting for us to partake of them a like, well...a lot like a regular old library. To me the beauty of going to a library is being overwhelmed by all the amazing books and works that have been amassed there and then with the thrill of being exposed to something you never previously knew existed. This is how I feel about the vast Rich Mullins library that fans have been curating for us all.
Let me introduce these sources to you one at a time.
Source #1: The Ragamuffin Archive
I find the story behind this Youtube channel quite frankly amazing, although something like this was bound to happen. Basically, from what I've learned through various Facebook group pages, a guy who works in radio was handed a bunch of old tapes and cassettes of Rich Mullins concerts and videos and little by little he started uploading them to Youtube. Currently he is doing a "Throwback Thursday" type thing, adding a new Rich Mullins interview each week, out of another set of tapes someone else gave him recently. On top of that, he also recently added two documentary concert videos that have basically never been seen before, at least not by very many people. Finally, in addition to all this the Ragamuffin Archive also contains the entire Zion album Behold the Man, Zion being the first music group Mullins was in during his college years. Let me just say this: as a Rich Mullins fan I always knew the Zion album existed, but I had no idea how I would ever get to listen to it. No idea. And now it's just out there, available to listen to any time I like.
Here are some sample videos, including one of the "new" interviews, the concert videos, and a song from the Zion album:
Source #2: Rich Mullins Old Music
There is another Youtube channel operated by Beth Lutz who was in Zion with Mullins. Essentially it contains a bunch of old audio/video of Mullins and Zion playing at venues around Cincinnati Bible College, including some local public access TV. It's incredible. There's more here than I can take in.
Here's just one example, a broadcast of his classic "Sing Your Praise to the Lord":
Source #3: Peter Kruse
This might be the craziest source of all. Basically, right before Rich Mullins died he spent some time up in Elgin, Illinois recording Mitch McVicker's first album with Mark Robertson (who was in the Ragamuffin Band) and the guys from This Train. During his stay he was hosted by the family of Peter Kruse who was a kid at the time and is an aspiring musician himself now. During their stay Mullins and Co. performed an entire concert in the Kruse home and they prodigiously decided to film it. Incredible.
Here are a couple of videos from Mullins stay.
Source #4: Jim Rinck
I don't know who this guy is but somehow he maintained a commencement speech Rich Mullins gave at something called "CIY" (Christ in Youth, I imagine). How in the world would I even have been able to see this, let alone even knowing about it, apart from Youtube?
Here is part 1 of the speech:
Source #5: CBC Band With Rich Mullins
This page is run by someone who played in Mullins' first band and has a recording of one of Mullins' first concerts, performed at Cincinnati Bible College where he was attending college. It's quite a unique recording, especially since we get to hear on of the songs that made it onto the Jesus Record 20 years later.
Source #6: Calling out Your Name
This is the first non-Youtube source and has been around the longest. It's all in print and the site looks awful but it's a wealth of Rich Mullins material. As a kid in the years after Mullins' death I spent hours and hours pouring through this site, reading almost everything and learning how to play some of the songs on guitar.
Here's what you will find there, among many others things:
Release Magazine Essays (written by Mullins himself)
Synopsis of the plot of his St. Francis musical Canticle of the Plains
Guitar chords for Mullins' songs
Source #7: Singing From Silence by Pamela Richards
A memoir of sorts recounting her friendship with Mullins, this is the only contentious source in my list. I've decided to include it because I find author Pamela Richards' story compelling, especially after being in conversation with her through email over the course of a year. Many do not and will not know what to do with her story, especially as it messes with the accepted Rich Mullins canon, but I think it deserves to be heard and considered. I'll leave it at that and let you do your own reading. (I should also say her website contains many Rich Mullins related articles and reflections as well as a blog that she updates frequently.
That's all I have for now. If there are other Rich Mullins sources out there feel free to send them to me.
Oh, and here's another Rich Mullins source: my blog! Haha.
But if you don't mind, please check out some of the many articles and interviews I've put up about Mullins and the recent film they made about him:
Here you can find my interview with Mullins' producer Reed Arvin.
Here you can find my podcast where I interview David Leo Schultz, the director of the Rich Mullins biopic Ragamuffin.
Here's a transcript of that interview.
Here you can find my reflection on A Liturgy A Legacy And A Ragamuffin Band.
Here you can find my thoughts on "The Theology of Rich Mullins."
Here's my review of the Ragamuffin movie.
Here's my post on the Ragamuffin movie tour
And here's my most popular Rich Mullins post of all.