What’s The Rockbrat Reading Today ? MICHAEL SWEET – HONESTLY: MY LIFE AND STRYPER REVEALED (2014)

Posted: March 27, 2014 by Cowboy Col in What's The Rockbrat Reading Today ?
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Michael Sweet, known prominently as the front man for the most feted of all Christian rock bands, Stryper tells the story of his life with a candid honesty that makes this a compelling read, and not just for rock fans. Rock fans will no doubt relish the tell-all account of Stryper’s rise and fall and rise again – yet it’s the depiction of his frailties, strengths and struggles that makes his a human interest story the reader can not only relate to, but also empathise with.

In the mid-1980s, Michael Sweet was a young man going places. His band Stryper represented the popular glam metal style of that time, characterized by highly visual performances, twin guitar solos, big hair and Sweet’s high-pitched, multi-octave screams. Here was a guy in his early to mid-twenties, a gifted guitar player, vocalist, song writer and front man for a band who were touring the world, selling hundreds of thousands of albums and enjoying worldwide success on MTV. Unlike their peers however, they were rock ‘n’ roll trailblazers – the first Christian heavy metal band to enjoy global commercial success and at the same time, proselytize the word of God through their music to the masses.

Yet behind the façade, Sweet was anything but happy. A series of events over a sustained period (including disputes about song writing, poor financial management and even egos permitting the band to become incorporated) had seen cracks start to appear in the yellow and black veneer, cracks that would ultimately lead to his departure from the band.

Being a highly visible Christian metal band was what separated Stryper from the pack. Yet by 1991, Sweet was being choked by it. He was tired of being lampooned by both Christians and non Christians alike. Sweet ditched the yellow and retained only the black, hit the bottle pretty hard, took up collecting firearms and put God on hold. To the Christian zealots that makes him a sinner. To me, that makes him human. He describes these events in his life with a frankness that you don’t normally find in rock bios, a quality that is consistent throughout the book.

Amongst a slew of topics, he talks about growing up with ADHD, signing bad publishing deals, record labels going bankrupt, the sacking of Tim Gaines, the pros and cons (mainly cons) of having his Mother manage the band, the squandering of millions of dollars, and being asked to join Boston. Yet its only when Sweet describes his struggle to break free from the shackles of Stryper that you begin to understand Stryper has been both a blessing and curse for him, a monkey on his back that at times he has wanted to kill, and at times has been an impediment to his solo career.

If the reader chooses to forever pigeon hole Sweet in striped yellow and black spandex then the point is missed. With each chapter, it becomes clear that Sweet possesses a depth of character (and staunch faith) as he has dealt with life’s trials and tribulations. He comes across as a sensitive, at times emotional figure. These traits we can all relate too. From being a rock star and performing in Stadiums to performing manual labour, to struggling to find his identity and re-establishing himself following Stryper’s split, to being a better Father to his children, and supporting his wife through her terminal battle with cancer. I was stirred by Sweet’s narrative of his wife’s Kyle’s last days, and you’ll be hard pressed not to be moved either.

As expected, he talks a lot about his faith, (a faith that has been tested), and his relationship with God. Throughout life’s roller coaster ride he has maintained his conviction and integrity – again, behaviours not unfamiliar to readers, Christian or not.

This is a thoroughly engaging read, and a book I couldn’t put down. I’ve read hundreds of rock books over the years – and Michael Sweet’s ‘Honestly’ makes my Top 10. That’s a statement I don’t make lightly. 9.5 out of 10.

“Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed, will be released worldwide on May 6th. For more details go to Michaelsweet.com

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Comments
  1. adrian faz says:

    I enjoyed the review so much that I asked my boss ,who is our library director, to pre-order the book like right now. Can’t wait to get it. Only complain…why the Jim Bean ad below it? Kinda took the good feeling away seeing an ad for alcohol following the book written by a christian. Oh well. Good review overall .

  2. MrBill97702 says:

    I was one of those who really didn’t take Stryper seriously in the 80’s. Although a lot of their songs were good, and some were great, it’s really wasn’t the style I was into at the time.

    But today, I’m listening to Stryper with a whole new set of ears. Their last four albums are outstanding.

    That Sweet and his fellow band members ultimately didn’t fit some perfect Christian stereotype is fine with me. I suspect that’s a struggle with a lot of performers who go out and identify as a Christian group or soloist. Fans expect these people to be something special despite the fact that they’re just as screwed up as everyone else. To quote a lyric from Steve Taylor (another Christian performer), “First they got you thinking you’re a prophet. Now they’ve got you living a lie.”

    In the end, we’re ALL just sinners without a leg to stand on before a Holy God. We all need redemption. I think that’s the message I see in the lives of Sweet and his fellow bandmates.

  3. Glamazon says:

    Christian Rock has always been discounted by the mainstream music press and probably always will since rock has typically been associated with having a good time, sexing it up, senseless rebellion, and other such activities. On the other hand when I hear bands like Nickelback it certainly doesn’t make me want to “sex it up” ,(maybe throw up), but I digress. One must consider that the ostentatious and excessive behavior commonly associated with rock acts obviously isn’t congruent with the christian lifestyle. Even basic self-promotion could be viewed as being contradictory to someone whose primary value is humility and service to others. So in my view any sincere Christian band doesn’t stand a chance in the mainstream music scene and it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of music on offer which, in my experience, is as good as anything else out there and in some cases superior. But admittedly its kind of hard for the average rock fan to “light one up” when listening to a song about redemption and sacrifice.

    This surely must be a source of frustration for anyone who is performance oriented and wants to share their talents with the world especially when others are telling you how good you are. And, at the same time, the mainstream critics talk about how “square the music is” which must lead to some real personal challenges. Anyone who is in the know musically can reference guys like Phil Keaggy who is a master guitarist by any standard and has been name checked by some of the heaviest guitarists in the business. However, he remains unknown to the larger audiences because of his association with the Christian faith. To be fair, because of his faith, he hasn’t sought the adulation and wild life stlye commensurate with that of a rock star, which contributes to his lower profile. He seems to be very content with his accomplishments. In fact I’m more frustrated on his behalf than he probably is for himself. Specifically as it relates to Stryper – I always like them though knew they were in for a rough time not only because of their up front stance on their beliefs but because the lure of the secular side of the business. I didn’t know about the offer to join Boston but it made a lot of sense since Sweet’s vocal style would have been a good match. Additionally, while Boston’s music wasn’t christian it was more positive and upbeat than the average rock tune.

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