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Nancy Honeytree

                     Photo from: Chuck Brown

It would  be slightly  inaccurate to  call  Honeytree one of the pioneers of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), for at the peak of her career in the 1970s that term had not yet been coined. Honeytree was one of a group of artists who made what was called Jesus music--the first music to match Christian lyric themes to the folk-rock and soft-rock styles of the day. Honeytree was one of very few women active in contemporary Christian music at this early stage, and she is regarded as a CCM pioneer.

Honeytree   was    born   Nancy   Henigbaum   in Davenport, Iowa, on April 11, 1952. Henigbaum means "honey tree" in German, and the English term stuck with her after Honeytree's high school friends began using it as a nickname. Honeytree's parents were classical musicians and members of the Episcopal Church, and as a high school student she considered a career as an orchestral cellist. But her mother, Mary, a folk music enthusiast, taught her to play the guitar. Honeytree didn't get along with the straight arrows at her high school, and she became involved with the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s. She told Dell Ford of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal Gazette that by the time she was a senior in high school, she was "a hippie and into drugs." 

In the spring of 1970 Honeytree's sister, who was studying at the Fort Wayne Art School in Indiana, invited her to come for a visit over the Easter holiday. In Fort Wayne she met several members of the Jesus People movement, a group of hippie converts to evangelical Christianity. They introduced her to John Lloyd, a Fort Wayne youth minister who operated a Christian folk coffeehouse called the Adam's Apple. As a result of her holiday experiences she became a born-again Christian. According to Christian music historian Daniel J. Mount, she briefly started using drugs once again after her conversion but then recovered from her addiction. 

                  Photo from: Christian Cruises

Taking a job as a secretary at Adam's Apple, Honeytree became immersed in the growing overlap between rock and Christian music. "That was like college to me," she told One Way. "I worked there for five years right out of high school. Couldn't have gotten a better education." Attending the group's Monday night Bible study sessions, Honeytree began to write original Christian songs. When she was called on to lead a group of singers in worship, she sometimes added one of her own songs to the evening's music. A minister, impressed, borrowed money so that she could record and press her first album, Honeytree, in 1973. Word spread quickly about its unique fusion of Christian themes with the folk-rock trends of the day; Honeytree's stylistic models were not traditional Christian musicians but female stars like Carole King and especially Judy Collins. Honeytree was picked up and reissued by the nationally distributed Christian label Myrrh. One of its songs, the Brazilian-flavored "Clean Before My Lord," was a modest hit, and "Treasures" became a Christian wedding favorite. 

Honeytree   continued  to   issue  new  music  on  her   own  OakTable  Publishing  label,  frequently in other languages. Honeytree met Mexican missionaries Ruth and Victor Martínez in Fort Wayne in the late 1980s and learned to sing some songs in Spanish for a return visit to Monterey. By 1994 she had released an album in Spanish, Dios ha abierto la puerta (God Has Opened the Door) and was on the way to speaking the language fluently. "The thing I am finding is that Latin American Christians have a tremendous zeal to reach the unreached people ... the Lord is doing something wild here," Honeytree told One Way. By 2005 Honeytree had extended her ministry to the Eastern hemisphere. She performed in predominantly Islamic Pakistan, under heavy security, and learned to sing some songs in the Urdu language. Her 2005 album Call of the Harvest, which featured a reunion with Keaggy, was available in English, Spanish, and Urdu versions. Websites devoted to the history of CCM were beginning to rediscover Honeytree's pioneering music of the 1970s as her reputation spread outward around the globe. [by James M. Manheim, posted on Musician's Guide Click the arrow to access the next page of the Timeline.


The premier website for the history of the Jesus Movement A community of believers birthed in Chicago during the Jesus Movement First documentary dealing with events surrounding the birth of the Jesus Movement in California Distributor for several of the earliest Jesus Music pioneers One of the most preeminent publications to come out of the Jesus Movement Online radio featuring many early Jesus Music artists. Website for Dennis Preston - creator of ASFB's artwork. Cross Rhythms online magazine and radio

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