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Barry McGuire
We're in the Last Mile - The Keystone Interview by Don Gillespie



The Barry McGuire Interview was done in Brisbane, Australia in late 1978. I had met Barry at the airport and got him settled into his hotel. I thought he may want to rest but he was straight into it. "Hey lets do it". he said. We later had lunch at Mt. Cootha as I had to drop him into the television studios for some promo work. We stood outside and I took a number of pictures of him for what might have been a cover of Keystone. I had alreday taken several photos of him during the interview, unfortunately they seem to be lost forever.

Barry is the same person face to face as he is in his concerts. He is one of the greats. He's had the number one hits, been associated with some of the biggest names in pop music and yet he is just like you and me, and his love for the Lord shines through even after long flights and television interviews.

 

DON: Barry, where do you see the Christianity going ... what do you see happening?

I think that a lot of pressure is coming on individuals. I think we're entering the final phase of human history, and because of that, God is really allowing Satanic pressures to come against His people to teach us to depend more upon our Lord, and to show us what's really inside of us. When everything is going great, it's easy to praise the Lord, but when everything is going wrong and your business falls apart, your car is wrecked and you lose everything that you've got, it gives us an opportunity to see what's really in our own heart. If we're truly crucified to the world, if we are truly dead to the world, then nothing should really affect us. A guy said to me the other day, "If something sets your goat, that means there's a goat to be got" . . . and oh, that's the truth. I think the Lord is allowing the Church to see what is really in our hearts, so we can say like David said, "Search me O God, see if there is any wicked thing within me." Then we can deliver it up, and allow Him to remove it from us. You see, I look for a time in my own life when the Lord will have cleansed me to such a degree that Satan will be able to let the full forces of hell come straight at me, and I won't even know that the wind's blowing. Spiritually speaking, I'm not that way now.

I get blown away by somebody making me wait for a green light. I want to make a left turn, and I'm sitting there waiting and waiting and waiting and... but God is teaching me how to wait, how to love, how to laugh, how to enjoy the moments whatever they are. I think it's not just happening to me. Everybody I talk to in different parts of the world have all been experiencing it. I've had people tell me from Wales to Washington to Sydney that this last three to six months have been the toughest six months in the Spirit that they have ever known, since they've been walking with Jesus. That excites me, man, because I see that God is doing something in His body ... it's like the only time a tree gets strong is during the drought. During the springtime it grows quickly, and the wood is soft, and then when the drought comes, the hard wood, that's the dark ring, is formed. And that's what gives the tree its strength, and I see that's where our strength comes from ... the adversity in dry times.

How did the Communion Song come about?

I was just asking the Lord to give me a song, about two and a half years ago, and the Lord had given me a glimpse, in my spirit, of how precious and personal the communion is when we take the elements that represent His blood and His body into our own body. It's like receiving Christ unto ourselves, physically receiving Him, doing in the physical what we've done in the spiritual. When we speak of covenant relationship with Him, then we follow through by the taking of the elements. The promise of the cup is a new covenant ... a new agreement ... a new relationship ... all the old things have passed away. It was really amazing because it took about a month to write, and it came out so simple. It was just such a simple song, but it was probably one of the most difficult songs that I ever got hold of. I waited for days on the Lord for just the simplest line. And then when it came I went wow ...

What sort of guitar do you play?

A twelve string. It's made by B. C. Rich in Los Angeles, a guy who makes just four or five guitars a day, limited production, but it's an excellent instrument. I've had it about two years now.

What were you playing before that?

A Guild twelve string, an F2/12. It was the best guitar I'd had up to that time till Bernie made up this new one for me, and I've played the roof off it. It's just about worn out.

What sort of strings do you use?

Whatever I can get! I prefer d'Angellico medium gauge, but when you're in Wollongong and you run out of strings, you take whatever you can get. I'll use electric guitar strings, I'll use anything!

We've just had an album out here by Mike and Kathy Deasy, and they've written a few of the songs that you've recorded. How long has Mike been a Christian?

Mike played guitar on my first album, `Seeds'; in fact, he wrote the `David and Goliath' song, and the song is really about himself, because he was the one that had the monster living inside his head. He knew Jesus as Saviour, but he didn't know Jesus as his Lord. But in the couple of years that followed the making of that album, Mike came into total relationship with Jesus, first he and his wife, and now his children. So for about the last three years they've been walking with Jesus, really closely.

What sort of life do your wife and son lead, with you being on the road all the time?

It's living out of a suitcase all the time. People think of the glamorous life of traveling around the world, but it's just a lot of hard work. All the things that we were created to do, we just don't get to do. Things like live in one place, have a garden and get to know your neighbours. I've been doing that for twenty years, and I'm coming to the end of it. This may be the last time I'm in Australia. Next year I'm cutting my concerts down to doing only three a month, whereas this year I'm doing about twelve a month. I'm looking for the time when I won't do concerts at all, except for maybe six a year.


There has been a lot of criticism in the past few months about the amount of money Gospel artists or their promoters are making. What are your comments on that subject?

When you stop to think about how much it costs to put on a concert ... a secular concert would go on and people would pay anything from $7.50 to $15.00 apiece for tickets, so you get a thousand people at $15.00 a ticket .., that's fifteen thousand dollars. A secular artist, just anybody, they make ten thousand dollars a night, and a Christian artist makes two, three or five or eight hundred dollars, maybe a thousand dollars a night. And people say, "Boy, I'd like to make a thousand dollars for two hours' work." But it's not two hours' work, it's your whole life; it takes weeks and months and years to be able to stand for two hours in front of somebody to communicate what God has given you. So it's not two hours of work, it's a lifetime of work that you're receiving a thousand dollars for, or five hundred, or two hundred, or ten or thirty or however much the Lord gives you through that particular ministry. And then people don't stop to think about the transportation expenses to fly around from one place to another, and the whole organisation expenses of promotion, the venue, the renting of the building, supplying security officers, and paying the union musicians that you have to have, even if they don't play.

You can only please one person, that's Jesus, and anybody less than Him, I don't take too seriously, when they start complaining. I'll listen, but if I've checked out my directions, and I feel that the Lord is leading me in a certain direction, and then someone comes along and says they don't think that I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do, I'll listen to what they have to say, and then I'll go back and recheck my leading. Then if I feel that I'm where God wants me to be, He's the only one I want to please.

You used to record with Myrrh Records. How long ago did you switch to the Sparrow label?

I don't remember the year, but I've been with Sparrow since it started. I was with Myrrh because Billy Ray was the head of Myrrh. It was his creation - Myrrh was his vision. He was working for Word Records at the time and he really had a vision to set up a label to record contemporary Christian music. So he started Myrrh Records under the covering of Word, but then he had the opportunity to start a brand new label. So when he had that chance he started Sparrow and I would record for Billy Ray if he left Sparrow and started another company. That's because I love him as a person, and I like the way he does business, I like to hang out with him, I like to pray with him and I just love the guy. That's why I'm with Sparrow.

It looks like Sparrow will be going ahead in leaps and bounds.

It's growing about as fast as it can grow right now without having a lot of money behind it. Billy is operating right at the edge of his financial capabilities. When people order merchandise, they have sixty days before they have to pay for it. So you're shipping records all over the United States, and you've got two hundred thousand records pressed and shipped, and you have to pay the pressers and packers and shippers the day that you do it, and people don't have to pay you for two months. So he's got say two hundred thousand dollars tied up that he's got no return for, and he's really frustrated because people order records and he can't send them. He says he has to wait till he gets more money before he can have more records pressed to send them out. So Sparrow is growing as quickly as it can grow.

Cause me to ride on the high places of the earth. Now, that's a natural result of the relationship. The first thing God does to a man, anybody, a junkie, a business man, a prostitute or a good moral woman when they receive Jesus as their Saviour is to make that person a responsible human being. Because of that you start to move in areas of responsibility, and God starts to bless your life. All of a sudden you get a job, maybe for the first time in years, or you become more responsible as to how you spend your money. You don't blow it all the time, you understand the value of money, and a whole new area of living opens up.

I think that one of the reasons why people hate the Jews so much is because they've been so financially blessed by God. I think that one of the reasons why people are starting to dislike Christians is because God blesses His people. He loves to bless His kids. I don't think that we are to become spiritual reservoirs of his blessing, but I think we are to be channels of that blessing. The money that He pours into me, I pour into other sources, other things, thousands and thousands of dollars that go into other ministries in.

People seem to have the idea that anyone involved in, say, `Gospel business' must be rolling in money. Is it the same scene in the States where people seem to have the wrong impression of what's really happening?

Any time you take your eyes off Jesus, you stumble. If anyone looked at me they'd stumble, if they looked at you they'd stumble, or at Billy Graham, or Peter or Paul they'd stumble, so the only one we can look at is Jesus. He's our example. He's the sinless one, the Lamb of God. The result of following Jesus, but not the reason for my relationship with Him, is that He has promised that if I will keep his commandments, and love Him with all my heart, that He will different places. Marie and I were just looking at our life, and seeing how God has blessed us. When we got married, we had forty dollars ... that's all we had! And in four years we're just purchasing a piece of land in Texas, and it looks like, by the end of March, we'll own it. So here we've come from forty dollars to owning our own piece of ground, and then we look at all the thousands of dollars we've given away. You can't out-give God. The more He pours into us, and the more we pour out, the more He gives us, so He starts to pour more blessings into you than you can give away.

It's like if you have a funnel, and you're pouring gasoline into a tank through the funnel, if you pour the gasoline in too quickly, the funnel will fill up and overflow. Faster than it can pour out the bottom, it's being poured into the top, so there's this incredible surplus, and you can't give it away as fast as God can pour it back into you. There is a danger of people serving God and giving to get. I don't give to get. I give because it's fun to give, it really is, or I give because there's a need. I see somebody who's struggling along with something, and they need a thousand dollars, or fifteen hundred dollars, or whatever, and if I have it, which I don't always, I give if.

A lot of times Marie will say to me "You know, honey, we should . . . ', and I'll say "Yeah, I think so, too." She won't even say what, and we'll just write a figure down, and if we agree on it, we'll write a cheque and leave it there when we walk out the door. We don't do it because we think, `If I give a thousand dollars, God will give me back ten thousand, or if I give ten thousand. He'll give me back ten million.' Then your motive is wrong. There's a natural progression of relationship. When we love God with all our mind, soul, strength and everything we've got, and love each other as we love ourselves, and when we love ourselves, then there's going to be a natural result of that love affair, which is an abundance of life. It's super, man!

Have there been any concerts that have been really memorable; any in particular that really stand out in your mind?

So many of them that I can't really even remember. I've been doing two hundred concerts a year for the last five years, which is a thousand concerts. (While we were talking a cat appeared from nowhere chasing a mouse).

I always get blown away that nature, as it is now, is built on self destruction. Nature is totally ruthless, and there's no love, no compassion in nature. I mean, an earthquake will fall in a lake and kill every fish in the lake, it doesn't care. A big blizzard will come and freeze everybody to death, people, animals, trees, and it doesn't care. I look at a wolf who's out looking for dinner for its cub, and I don't know whether to root for the wolf who's after a lamb, or for the lamb who's running from the wolf. If the wolf doesn't catch the lamb, then the cub will starve to death, yet if the wolf catches the lamb, the lamb is going to die. It's like everything is built for destruction. So all I can say is "Lord, come quickly, and put an end to all of the death."

The way things are going, that seems pretty soon.

It looks like we're coming into the last mile.

Do you find that all around the world people are feeling the same way?

Yes, more and more.

How are things going in the States, now that you have a Christian President in Jimmy Carter?

Well, the press has made an issue of his spiritual commitment. It seems to me that a man's spiritual beliefs are his own personal affair, but when you get to be President of the United States, you don't have anything personal, everything is public. And Jimmy Carter is just a man like me or you. He's not perfect, he's not Jesus Christ. J.C. stands for Jimmy Carter, not Jesus Christ. So he's just a man, who makes mistakes. I believe that he's a man of integrity, a man of love, even though I don't understand his decision on the proton bomb. So all I can do is hope for the best, and trust God.

I can't look to Jimmy Carter for my salvation. I think that he has inherited, in the structure of the United States, a terminal society. I think that the United States is doomed. I think that the world is doomed - Australia, New Zealand, England, Europe, China, Russia - the human society is doomed. The reason it's doomed is because of the individual immorality of the four billion people that make up the community. Individual, selfish, greedy, lawless immorality. If it weren't for that, this world would be a utopia. So what can one man do, even if he's President of the United States? I think he's been used spiritually to inject a breath of life into a terminally diseased patient. I think America has had a stay of execution, so to speak; that we've been given a few more years. Nixon was ejected, and that whole thing was exposed for what it was, and now we have a man in office who really appears to be, and claims to be, born again. Have you ever noticed that when someone is terminally ill, they appear to get better, just before they die? I think that it's that way in America right now. It looks on the surface as though things are getting better, but in reality, the decay, the immorality is worse than it's ever been, and the lawlessness. When the lights went out in New York, we got a good peek at what's really happening in people's hearts; what they're really like when the lights go out. It's not getting better! On the surface it might appear that there are some areas of seeming morality, but when the lights go off the truth is revealed. The writing is on the wall and we've been weighed in the balance. It's just a question now of when the man comes to collect the rent, and I just praise God that my rent has been paid, because I couldn't pay the rent for my life.

When will you be coming to Australia again?

I have a feeling this could be my last trip to Australia. It may not be, I may come once or twice more, but I'm really looking to sink a root, and become a neighbour to some unsuspecting person out there. Someone's going to look over their fence and I'll be standing there. That's what I'm really yearning for in my heart - to stop traveling and to get a dog, plant a garden, and settle down.