Musician Barry McGuire's Testimony: Eve of Destruction
When I was a little boy, my grandmother told me something I've never forgotten. I was probably about five, maybe six years old. She used to take care of me during the day when my mom worked. One day she said to me, 'you know, Barry, one day when you grow up, you're gonna know the truth, and the truth is gonna set you free.' Now, I didn't know that came out of the Bible. I didn't even know there was a Bible. I was just a little kid. My grandmother told me that. And I knew she loved me, and boy, I knew I loved her. And when I grew up, sure enough, I wanted to be free. I mean who doesn't want to be free? And certainly, a lie has never set anyone free. So if anything was gonna set me free, it had to be the truth.
And along came the 60s. And boy, I was the right age at the right time in the wrong place, you might say. And hey, I wanted to be free. Boy, I sang 'Eve of Destruction' lookin' to be free. I went to Broadway. I did a show on Broadway called HAIR. I played the male lead in the original Broadway cast, lookin' to be free. And the very lifestyle that we were promoting was killing us all. I looked around me I saw my friends, one, two, three at a time goin' down: drug overdose, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases.
So I left Broadway, I came back out to California. And I was livin' with a friend of mine, Denny Doherty, up on the Appian Way. And he used to joke and tease me, 'cause I was still lookin' for truth, and every time a new teacher or sage or somebody, Meyer Baba, Sai Baba, Hadji Baba, any Baba would do, I mean I was down there in the front row, ya know, 'Humna Baba, lay the truth on me, man!' I was hummin' and bobbin' and goin' for it. And Denny says, 'Ah, you belong to the Guru of the Month Club.' I mean, anybody, I didn't care. If they had a word, I was down there tryin' to learn the truth. And they said a lot of things that were true, but I just couldn't somehow get it right inside of me.
And I was just about to give up, and one day I went over to a friend's house, Eric Hord. He used to be the lead guitar player for The Mamas and Papas, and he always had a big bowl of marijuana under his coffee table. And man, I had this bowl out that morning; I had three papers glued together. I figured he's only gonna lay one joint on me, so I'll make the biggest one I can roll. And I look down on this particular day, there's a little paper back book layin' on the table next to the grass, and it's called Good News for Modern Man. And I thought, 'Hey, I'm a modern man. I could use some good news.' I mean, everybody was dyin' all around me. So I took the book home with me, didn't know what it was. I got by myself, opened it up, and right on the first flyleaf page in the book it says, 'The New Testament in Modern English.' I got so angry. 'Ah, look at this! Them Jesus Freaks, man! They're diguisin' the Bible!' Threw it on the floor, I didn't wanna read the Bible! Give me a break! And it laid there for days. I was hopin' someone would come along and throw it away. I didn't wanna throw it away, 'cause I knew what it was, the Bible, and just in case, you don't wanna be responsible. Who knows? But it laid there for days, weeks, and months actually. I mean, when somethin' hit the floor in my house; the next person to pick it up was an archaeologist. I mean, that was some future dig.
And I was there one day by myself. And there this little book somehow kept surfacing above the trash. And the wind was blowing through the window catching the pages. It was flickin' its pages, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick. 'Read me!' it said to me. And truthfully, just out of bored, sarcastic curiosity, I picked up The Life and Times of Jesus Christ. And for the first time in my life, I stopped looking at Christians; I stopped looking at denominations, organizations, Catholics, Protestants, ya know, all this stuff that goes on in His name. And I took a look at Him, examined what He had to say. How He treated His personal friends. What He had to say to the people in the street, the alcoholics, the prostitutes, the homosexuals, the thieves, liars, and robbers. What he had to say about the military people, the political leaders, and the spiritual leaders (which is about the scariest thing he had to say to anybody). How He treated the little children when they came around. And everything that Jesus had to say, as I put it to the test against what I knew to be true through my own life experience, I couldn't find anything wrong with His words. There's no double meaning, no hidden agenda. It was all out front. And then He said thirteen words that changed my life, because I saw this was the answer to my personal eve of destruction. He said, 'Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as your self.'
How simple can it get? And I realized that if all of us in the whole world lived according to those two simple instructions -- I don't care what your concept of God is, you could be a Buddhist, you could be B'hai, you could be, ya know, whatever it is, Christian, just your concept of God -- love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as your self, and our world would change. How simple can it get? We wouldn't need a police force anymore, and we wouldn't need armies and navies and prisons and welfare systems. We wouldn't need lawyers and politicians. Two simple pieces of instruction: Love God with all my heart, and love my neighbor as my self.
And I wanted to be like Jesus. I thought, 'Man, this is my guy!' But I didn't wanna be a Christian, see. I wanted to be like Him, but I didn't wanna be like all them. I thought if I said yes to Jesus I'd have to get a powder blue leisure suit -- remember those? -- White shoes, ya know, walk around smilin' a lot. I couldn't do that.
But then I wrestled with it for nearly a year. And one day I was up just off Mulholland Drive in Stone Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. And I'm bangin' my head on the wall, my friends are all smokin' dope, eating peyote, psilocybin, ya know, drinkin' champagne and orange juice. And I'm over in the corner; I can't have fun anymore. See, once you've been busted by the truth, you've been busted. You can't fake it anymore. You can't go around sayin', 'Well, who really knows?' 'Cause you really know. You don't wanna know. But I knew. Jesus is the Lamb of God. His death paid my karmic debt. See, I had a debt I couldn't pay. I had debt I could not pay. I mean, I'm a murderer, I'm a liar, I'm a thief, I'm everything you're not supposed to be. I did it all. One time I was doing a newspaper interview, and the reporter said, 'Well, what did you do?' I said, 'Well, ya know the Ten Commandments?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'I broke 'em. All of 'em. A lot.'
That's what I did. And that's what we all did. And there has to be justice. How could God not allow justice to be? He couldn't just arbitrarily say, 'that's okay, Barry. You're forgiven.' And Jesus said, 'I will go. I will satisfy the demands of justice on his behalf.' And now the Bible says if I should stumble, if I should sin, it says God is faithful and just. You know what that justice cost? It cost Jesus' life. And He did that for me, He did that for you, He did that for every person that's gonna ever hear these words. So that I could be forgiven and truly, truly be free. That happened in 1971. I fell on my face on the floor of that house in Stone Canyon. I said, 'God, I don't know why, how; if I wake up alive tomorrow I'll follow You wherever You lead me.' And within a week I was on a Greyhound bus out of Hollywood, and I've never looked back, except in awe and wonder at how He revealed Himself to me in my state of mind at that time."