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Jimmy Needham Biography
Jimmy Needham refuses to compartmentalize his life. His music, his faith, his calling are so inextricably intertwined, it is impossible to decipher where one stops and another begins. It is this fusion of temporal life with eternal values that dresses his faith in flesh. Its a connection between the intangible spirit and corporeal expectations of this workaday world that imbue his music with a raw emotional transparency that crosses boundaries, cuts through bonds, pricks the conscience, and ultimately nestles softly in listeners hearts.
He is an artist who cant separate his performance from his song, or his life from his message. It is that same spirit which permeates Jimmys highly anticipated sophomore release, Not Without Love.
Many of the songs on my first album were birthed out my frustration with friends who claimed to love the Lord but were going out and getting hammered every weekend, Jimmy explains. I had other friends who were all about the holiness of God and the fear of the Lord, but they passed on some legalistic tendencies and judgmental attitudes that robbed me of joy. I was zealous, but there was no freedom in my zeal. I was living in a legalistic nightmare. While I still feel it is not okay to have one foot in the world and one foot in the church, Ive learned how easy it is to cry hypocrite to people who are struggling with things you arent struggling with.
Jimmy credits his new bride, Kelly, with opening his eyes and heart to the reality of grace. I was all about sharing the Lord, he explains. I carried tracts everywhere I went. I was like Bibleman. It was so wearing on me. It got to the point that I couldnt walk into a supermarket without feeling like a failure if I didnt witness to every cashier in the place. I was working really hard to put a smile on Jesus face because I was afraid if I didnt He was going to be disappointed in me.
I discovered that zeal and passion for God is a good thing, but if you dont love people, it doesnt count for much, Jimmy confesses. It is good to speak the truth, but it is so much better to speak the truth in love. I realized I had shared the gospel with so many people in the flesh, but all they knew was the Bible beater. I could have just loved on them and what impact would that have had? God has called us to joy. We have the hope of eternal life. Thats really what this album is all about.
Jimmy points to opening track, Come Around, as the heartbeat of the CD. A funky, rollicking melody compliments Jimmys fetching vocals in this confessional exposition on the futility of zeal without love. Passionate words and beautiful phrases, they just dont mean much if I dont have Jesus, he croons, and you get the impression that he really means it.
Forgiven and Loved might be the fraternal twin of Come Around, as it internalizes the grace message. A bluesy and meandering guitar ballad, Jimmy prays for head knowledge to become heart knowledge. This is me asking God to remind me in my heart that I am forgiven and loved, that there is no condemnation, he explains. For all the verses in the Bible that say that, and as much as I know that, I still dont know that.
Anyone who has followed Jimmys music expects some solid theological underpinnings to his songs, and Not Without Love delivers. Rend draws on the prophetic utterances of Joel to encourage believers to come before God with a broken and contrite heart. God doesnt want show and sacrifice, Jimmy declares. He doesnt want us to tear our garments. He wants us to rend our hearts.
The Author is another theologically grounded song centered around the penultimate truth that Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. This is the ultimate love story, Jimmy muses. You cant plan the end and not plan the means. I think there is something beautiful and loving about knowing that Christ was not a backup plan. He was the plan all along.
Waxing allegorical Jimmy offers Tossed by the Wind, a cautionary tale for kids heading off to college. I studied history and philosophy in college. It is a fascinating thing to observe the thoughts of humanity over the years, and to see what happens when we subtract God from the equation; fascinating but so vacant of truth.
While Jimmy would argue that he is a teacher who uses his songs as a textbook rather than a worship leader, someone listening to Hurricane might disagree. Penned with Jason Ingram, (2008 SESAC Songwriter of the Year), Jimmy calls this powerful piano-based ballad the most worshipful song with which he has ever been involved. We want God to come to us, and He shows up in a lot of different ways, he says. He comes as a loving Father; he comes as a friend, as an encourager, as a healer. But sometimes He shows up as a hurricane, and the God we thought came to comfort us actually came to wreck us. It looks tragic, but nothing could be further from the truth. When God destroys us, it is only so He can build us back up again.
No album titled Not Without Love would be complete devoid of at least a couple bona fide love songs, and the newlywed Jimmy is happy to oblige. There is a lighthearted, quirky ode to marital bliss, Firefly, and the more romantic, Unfailing Love, which he wrote as a proposal to Kelly. Obviously I cant love her perfectly, but this is a vow song, Jimmy says, a grin playing across his face as he glances at his wife. It is all about commitment. It says no matter what happens were together. I am for you.
Perhaps the most potent love song on the album is appropriately titled, The Great Love Story. It is the gospel from start to finish, starting in the Garden and concluding with the redemption of Christ, Jimmy says. Every night, whether I am in front of 300 or 3000 people, I have people who are attentive to things I have to say. It cant be that I am on stage for my own glory. God has put me there for a reason. The only reason I am up there is to get the gospel across in a clear way.
Jimmy continues, There is something so appealing when we love like Jesus did. I missed out on that for so long. No more. Thats what Not Without Love is all about.