Kanye West has found God.
Okay, that's not entirely accurate. Kanye West is searching for God. Or some inner peace. News broke last week that the 32-year old VMA stage crasher was heading to India to spend a month in a Hindu ashram. Presumably, West will have a chance to properly grieve the 2007 death of his mother, reflect on his own life, and get his head screwed on straight. I wish him luck. The dude is too talented and big-hearted to fall down a rat hole of narcissism and self-destruction.
West is standing at the same crossroads so many other musicians have stood. Artists whose lives of fame and chaos reached a breaking point which could only be repaired by faith in something bigger. Musicians who turn to God or spirituality are a different breed than the scores of award winners who give the obligatory thanks to God after picking up a Grammy.
Musicians who find God often lose Him on the next concert tour. Still, for a few brief moments, the clouds part, the light shines in, and inner peace is restored. Here are some artists who, like Kanye, have searched for meaning beyond fame.
See you when you get back, Kanye. Enjoy the peace and quiet.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman into a Jewish family (he had his bar mitzvah in 1954). Publicly, though, religion and spirituality played virtually no role in Dylan's life until the late '70s when he became a born-again Christian. Dylan took bible study classes, made two Christian albums (1979's "Slow Train Coming" and '80s "Saved"), and began preaching from stage. The conversion was short-lived - at least publicly. Nowadays, Dylan's religious beliefs are as confounding as his lyrical messages. He's been seen at Jewish temples and just released a Christmas record.
Cat Stevens nearly drowned in the Pacific while swimming at Malibu beach. He claims a wave appeared and carried him to shore after asking God to save him. A year later, Stevens - who had long sought for spiritual meaning - converted to Islam and left music for nearly 20 years. He devoted his energies to charity and education. His slow return began with religious recordings before releasing 2006's "An Other Cup," his first pop album since 1978. A second album, "Roadsinger" was released earlier this year.
Al Green's music was the soundtrack of 1970s' make-out sessions across the country. Green himself wasn't immune to the charms of women. He met Mary Woodon at a '74 concert and began dating her. The relationship ended when the disturbed woman poured scalding hot grits on Green before fatally shooting herself in his Memphis home. The incident sent the singer running from sexy soul into the church. Green became a minister, bought a church, and spurned secular music. A 1988 duet with Annie Lennox brought him back to R&B even though he still preaches at church in between tour stops.
The Fab Four were arguably the first musicians to make a high profile spiritual journey. In 1968, worn thin from years of Beatlemania and business tensions, they travelled (along with Donovan and Mia Farrow among others) to Rishikesh, India for a three-month transcendental meditation course at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. A bulk of the songs from "The White Album" would be written at the ashram, including "Sexy Sadie," a rebuke of the Maharishi. For Harrison, his association with Hinduism would last throughout his life. His ashes wee scattered on the Ganges River in India.
Soon after releasing his apocalyptic album "The Future," the Canadian singer-poet checked into a Buddhist monastery in California. He spent five years leading a monk's life before returning to recording and ultimately touring. Cohen muses, "I think religion is the real deep entertainment. Real profound and voluptuous and delicious entertainment. The real feast that is available to us is within this activity. Nothing touches it." Perhaps the best explanation of its allure among musicians. Amen.
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