Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dana Key (1953-2010)

This afternoon, I was informed that Dana Key, half of Degarmo and Key passed away this Sunday, June 6th of a blood clot. Clay Crosse, worship leader at Key's church, wrote this article in memory of Dana Key.

Dana Key 1953 – 2010

Last night I got the sad news that Dana Key had passed away. Dana was a loving husband to his sweet wife Anita. A loving father to Scottie, Andrew, and Eli. An ordained pastor. A committed student and teacher of the bible. A gifted musician. And an honest friend to many.

Dana’s band, DeGarmo and Key, were brave pioneers of modern Christian music in the 70s and 80s. Why do I call them “brave?” Well quite simply, up until that time very few musicians or groups had attempted to play and record music with Christian lyrics that sounded like mainstream pop or rock music of the day. It was unheard of and largely looked down upon. I know that seems odd to say here in current times, but trust me, back then Christian music mostly sounded like what was being sung at churches with choirs, piano, and organ.

Suddenly, to the shock of some and the delight of many more, this new crop of Christian musicians sprang up using electric guitars, keyboards and drums. Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Petra, Resurrection Band, and a band from Memphis called DeGarmo and Key were some of the first acts to play what came to be known as “Christian Rock” music. Christian rock music did not exist, then boom…it did. They paved the way for every contemporary Christian singer, songwriter, band, musician, and producer that followed.

Their concerts were picketed and boycotted by community church leaders who didn’t want Christian music to sound the way they were playing it. They were shouted at and prayed against. They received hate mail and literally had to travel with special security personnel at times.
Still, they plugged in their amps and jammed away, all for the glory of God. It was their calling. It was their mission.

For DeGarmo and Key, the result was a 20 year plus career of recording and traveling the world. Radio hits and awards came their way, but what will go down for eternity is the fact that over 100,000 young people professed faith in Christ while attending D&K concerts. This cannot go unmentioned. 100,000 plus!
At some point early in their career Dana, Eddie and the boys could have easily sat down and decided to not do invitations and altar calls. After all, “The folks just want to come see a good show, they don’t want to feel like they are at church.” might have been the typical reasoning. ‘We will just do good rock music with clean lyrics and pray that seeds are planted” could have been another line of thought.

But Dana Key knew that he was something more than a talented guitarist, songwriter, and singer. More than just an entertainer. He knew that as a teenager, his best friend Eddie DeGarmo had pulled him in a broom closet at school and told him about Jesus and that he came to know Christ at that point. He knew that God had arranged all this and also arranged for these two boys to form the band DeGarmo and Key. So he knew that whenever he was on stage it was his duty to open his bible and tell that crowd about Jesus and give them an opportunity to pray a prayer of repentance. The most famous rock bands in the world didn’t do such, but his band would. So they did, every time. The end result…100,000 plus souls saved by God’s grace.

God spoke through Dana Key in a clear and powerful way and after DeGarmo and Key retired in the 90s he continued to teach whenever he could, leading home bible studies and Sunday school classes and still traveled doing acoustic solo gigs. It became clear to anyone who sat under his teaching that Dana was a uniquely gifted communicator of God’s word.

Pastor Sam Shaw, (then senior pastor at Germantown Baptist Church, Germantown TN) recognizing how effective Dana’s teaching was, encouraged Dana to pray about planting a new church. Dana’s first impulse was that he could never do such a thing. After all, he was a rocker. A music industry guy. Not a pastor. But try as he may, Dana could not shake this idea that Sam had suggested to him.

The Love of Christ Church (TLC) was planted in 2001 with Dana and his family and a small group of less than 20 others. I was blessed to serve with Dana as his worship pastor there from 2002 to 2006. I was also blessed to serve as a fellow elder with Dana and some amazing men at TLC. Behind the scenes we had much prayer and many lively discussions on the church. I must say that a group of opinionated men gathering to discuss something as important as God’s church can, at times, get heated and we had some of those moments. What I remember though is that Dana always insisted that there was resolution. I even recall big bear hugs and heartfelt tears at times.
My time with Dana and TLC was a Godsend in my life. I had never met Dana over the years but when he invited me and Renee to come to TLC and for me to be his worship pastor, it began a rich season in our life and we will forever be grateful.
Last night on the phone, fellow TLC’er Dr. Mel Senter, told me about what took Dana’s life, a pulmonary embolism, (severe blood clot). Dr. Mel, with a broken voice from crying, told me about the hospital staff’s heroic effort to save Dana but that the clots were just too advanced.
I reminded Mel about the 100,000 plus that professed Christ under Dana’s teaching and music. I stated that Dana didn’t go quietly through life and just discreetly exit the scene to Heaven. No, Dana was a spokesperson for his church’s namesake, the love of Christ. Mel, managing a chuckle, said, “There’s probably a huge reception going on right now with all those people welcoming Dana home.”
Thank you Dana for faithfully opening your bible and teaching others about Christ. You did that your whole adult life and God spoke through you in a clear and interesting way every time. We were all blessed to know you.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh! This is such sad news. But he is probably having the time of life right now. He was truly a pioneer of Christian music! Wow! These young kids in these bands have NO IDEA what a sacrifice it was to play or listen to Christian music 20, 30 yrs. ago. Wow.

    My heartfelt hugs go out to his family.

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