JEFF FENHOLT was the original Jesus in the most successful Rock Opera of all time Jesus Christ Superstar. He sang the lead of Jesus on the Original Broadway Cast album. Jesus Christ Superstar has sold 15 million double albums. Jeff's picture has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine and in Life, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Heavy Metal magazines throughout the world. Jeff was the lead vocalist for Black Sabbath in 1985. Since becoming a Christian, he has toured throughout Mexico, South and Central America, Australia, New Zealand, Scandanavia, South Africa, the Soviet Union, and the United States. Jeff appears on his own weekly television show which is available to over 100 million homes in the U.S. and is seen internationally.Testimony:
I grew up in Ohio. It's tough to talk about, but I suffered from child abuse.
I remember being locked up in an unfinished attic when I was three. I remember going to sleep and awaking at 2 o'clock in the morning with ice water being poured over my head. I also remember being beaten until I was nearly unconscious. I grew up filled with hate and violence.
I was a wild kid. Before I even reached my teens I was involved in theft, 'breaking and entering', and joy-riding in stolen cars.
My mother couldn't handle it, so when I was twelve years old, she called the police. She was going through a divorce and was hurting. I realized she was hurting. I loved my mother. I adored her, and knew she was in pain, but she called the police and said, 'I can't handle this kid. He's incorrigible.'
So I was in Juvenile Hall and it was heavy. I'm telling you, everybody was looking at me like a bunch of vultures looking at a dying lamb. I couldn't call out to anybody. It was tough.
During the next five years I was in and out of that place several times. I had been in rock groups since I was 12 years old. That was my escape.
Every time I wasn't in 'jail' I was doing rock 'n' roll. I got my first hit record when I was 15. The record Gone To Far hit the top 40 in the United States, and was number one in the Midwest. A second hit 1000 Devils followed. That was when I met my future wife, Reeni. I already had success. I was probably making $500-$1,000 a week in high school by touring on weekends.
At 17 I left home and started college. I worked at truck docks at night and went to college during the day. But then I thought, 'This is too rough,' so I went back into singing on weekends. I went out on a rock tour for the summer. I began delving into the occult and attended a satanic ritual.
I signed with the CBS record company when I was 19 years old. I started thinking, 'Maybe I won't go back to college. I'll keep rolling with this thing and continue to do concerts.'
While I was on tour in San Diego, California, I had just one night off. I was on the street when this guy banged into me and then turned around and cussed me out and called me a long haired dog. Well, we had a punch-out in the street. I didn't get hurt, but when I continued on down the street I heard somebody preaching the Word of God. Now, I had never heard anyone speak the Word of God before, so I was attracted to it. I walked up and listened. He said they were bringing a bus to their church to hold a service. Some thing touched me deep inside.
I remember when I was a kid in jail calling out to God, but I might as well have been calling to the wall because I didn't know who He was. I used to say, 'God, get me out of here, deliver me from this,' but my words always seemed to come back void. I had been searching when this guy started speaking the Word of God, so I went with him to his church. It was a Pentecostal church in San Diego.
I got on a bus with all these drunks, drug addicts, etc. When we got to the church the drunks were coming forward and accepting Jesus while the pastor was saying, 'I want you to accept Jesus as your Saviour.' I was listening to all that was happening, but the women who were speaking in tongues behind me were really weirding me out; I didn't know what to think of what was going on.
It became obvious to me that this pastor was singling me out. I kept thinking, 'This guy is not going to let me go until I accept Jesus and the only way to get out of here is on the bus.' So I started thinking about pretending to accept Jesus, I went forward just so I could go home. When I stood before the altar I asked Jesus, 'If you are Lord show me.' I began to feel the power of God touching my heart and soul and I wanted to cry but I held back the tears. Finally, I made a decision: Jesus is Lord and Saviour. But as I knelt down, the pastor said, 'Son, stand up. You're not ready to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, look at you.' He handed me a book and said, 'Take this book and read it and you come back here in a week and if you still want to accept Jesus, I will allow you to accept Jesus.'
I was used to being on stage so I turned around and said, 'I'm not taking this book because I am not a thief. If I took this book I'd be stealing it because I'm never going to set foot in this church again.' With that, I threw the book down and I walked out of that church. Not one person stopped me; not one person came to me. I was filled with bitterness and despair. I was confused and hurt. I hitchhiked back to the beach apartment which I'd leased for a month. When I walked in the lights were out. I got on my knees and started to pray; I was broken. I had learned to turn off love from my own mother and father. When a person does that, he becomes cold. I never cried over anything, but that night I got on my knees and cried out to God.
I said 'Oh God, I wanted to accept You but they wouldn't let me. I was in jail, I was beaten, I was abused and You delivered me. You gave me the gift of a voice. God, I don't know You or Jesus. I don't know what this is about, and I don't have anything to offer You. I'm a broken young man, but I give You my voice. You gave me the talent and I give it back.' It was the only thing I had to give.
As God is my witness, a light filled that room and a Presence came into the corner of that room that I've never experienced before. I was so frightened. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and bowed my head. A voice spoke inside of me to my heart and said, 'You are going to do the part of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, the production.'
I had heard about this show. The single had just come out and sold 2 million copies and people were starting to talk about it. It was rumored that it was going to be a big show. Reeni had become born again back in Ohio and I didn't know it. She had gotten the same thing at the same time in prayer. Later Reeni flew to California.
I went to CBS in L.A. to meet with the Vice President of CBS to talk about my album. But when I arrived, he had gone to lunch for two hours and I had to wait. With time to kill, I went down the street and said, 'What's the commotion over here at this theatre?' There were thousands of kids hanging out in the street at the Aquarius Theatre. I said, 'What is going on?' They said that they were holding auditions for a concert tour, Jesus Christ Superstar. They had put out an open call.
To make a long story short, they flew me to New York. When I walked in to audition, a man came up to me. He had bright yellow hair when new wave wasn't in yet. He said, 'I'm the casting director and I want to see you for dinner tonight.' I said, 'Oh no you ain't.' I went back to my hotel room and the phone rang. It was the casting director. He said, 'We've been considering you, we've decided against you. You're free to go. Get lost.' So, I got on a plane and flew out. I told Reeni, 'I didn't get the part.' She said, 'Jeff, the Lord spoke to my heart that you got the part.' On the third or fourth day the phone rang and a guy named Rick Gunnel called me from New York. He said, 'We've been looking for you all over the world and have finally found you. Why did you go home?' I explained to him about the dinner and everything and he said, 'Well, that man who dismissed you, he will promptly be fired, but we want you here. You are doing the part of Jesus.'
We opened the show in Pittsburg. Reeni and I couldn't even go out to dinner in the cities where we played because people recognized me. Then, one night when I was getting ready to go on stage at Boston Gardens, I felt some evil presence take hold of me back stage. It took hold of me hard. I got filled with fear and power at the same time. All sorts of fleshly things came up in me and I realized something had changed, something had consumed me and had taken charge of me back stage.
The stage manager came in and said, 'Five minutes.' I looked him straight in the eye to see if he could see the change in me because I had felt this presence take hold. He didn't see it but when I went out to go to the stage the police dogs that were there to protect us attacked me. They sensed something was very wrong. I went on stage. As I was standing in front of that audience a word came to me that I was going to have wealth and success. And that the audience was like a lion, I was the lion tamer. When I cracked the whip they would jump through the hoop, and they would do what I wanted them to do.
This presence stayed with me for 9 years, morning, noon, and night. I went to Broadway to open the show in the fall of that year. When I did, they put my picture on the cover of Time Magazine, I was the centerfold in Vogue, I was the centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine, Japanese magazine, etc. I read in a business magazine that we brought in 36 million dollars in six months touring, and that didn't include royalties from the record. The show was a huge success!
While I was on Broadway I kept dealing with this thing of Jesus every night. I'll tell you, some very disturbed people came back stage. One woman came to me and fell on her face and said, 'Bring my husband back.' Her husband had died that day. I had a blind girl come back stage and tell me that while I was singing she could see what I was wearing and what everybody else was wearing. Yet, she said she had been blind from birth. Let's face it, Jesus was not the author of that stuff. But I had no armor, no shield. I hated Christians. When anybody Christian came to witness to me, I'd say, 'Get away from me.' I'd swear at them and call them names.
I had been drinking and taking so many drugs that I had gotten down to 128 pounds. I was partying night after night after night. One night, my stomach hemorrhaged and I began to vomit blood. When I got to the hospital I had two pints of blood in my system. The doctor told Reeni that I needed a rest of six months so I pulled myself out of the Broadway show.
We went to our home in Long Island where I started just hanging out. I made a couple of records, but stopped trying to work because I was so messed up on drugs. One night I beat my wife up so badly that I knocked her cold in the dining room of our home. In a drugged out state I looked at her, smacked her a few times and said, 'Come on, wake up.' She wouldn't wake up and I thought she was kidding me. We always had flowers in the foyer in a vase. I got the flowers out, took the vase over and dumped the cold water on her. She just laid there. Do you want to know how demonic I was? I didn't call a doctor. I didn't call a friend. I didn't take her to urgent care. I went upstairs and I went to sleep.
The next day I called her friends trying to find her. 'Where's Reeni? Is she over at your house? Are you hiding her out?' Her friend said, 'No you fool, she's in the hospital.' When she got out of the hospital she came back to the house. Can you believe that? She kept calling on Jesus and binding satan.
We were having a wing on the house on Long Island remodeled. There were going to be construction crews there for six weeks. All the trucks had these Jesus stickers. I went up to Reeni and said, 'What is this, all these Jesus things?' She said, 'Well, I got the estimates on what you wanted so I hired these guys and they are going to rebuild that wing on the house.' I said, 'I want them out of here right now.' Reeni said to me, 'Jeff, everytime people come through the gates they triple the money. These guys gave us a good estimate and they won't rip us off.' Now, that spoke to my heart. So I said, 'Okay, I'll let them work here.' I didn't know that the contractor, Nick Disipio, had a ministry of deliverance.
The Lord knew I had been crying to Him.
This guy Nick Disipio later told me that he discerned when he walked into the house that there was a demonic presence there. I don't know how he discerned that....there were only hospital blinds on all 52 windows so that it could look like midnight at 12 noon, candelabras everywhere and weird carvings of Jesus with His head cut off. My taste was very strange.
I woke up one day at the crack of noon, just like I always did, and went downstairs, no shirt on, a lot of gold, baggy pants, boots, hair down to here (past waist), dyed bright blonde, etc. I was going to walk into that back room and talk to the workers like I talked to everybody. But when I walked into that room Nick looked at me and said, 'You played the part of Jesus Christ, now do you want to meet the real Jesus?'
I became so filled with fear and rage that I cussed him out. That was in the servants quarters and it had a swinging door. I tried to back through the swinging door, missed it, and hit the wall.
It knocked the wind out of me. That's how hard and fast I was backing up from him. That was what the spirit was doing to me, the spirit of Satan. So I ran and went to the furthest part of the house I could get to, which was the master bedroom, upstairs. I locked five different doors to get there. There, in the dark, I was shaking. The Lord was dealing with me. Finally, I made myself go back downstairs. I walked in and said to the workers, 'I will not accept Jesus, but if you want to pray for me, you can pray for me.' I silently called on Jesus.
They dropped their hammers, jumped down and laid hands on me, speaking in tongues. I hit the deck. I felt a weight come off my back like the weight of the world. It was as if my back opened up and an anvil was lifted out of it.
I said, 'If this is Jesus, I want to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.' I knelt right there and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. They took me right down to the beach and baptized me.
After that I had a thirst for the Lord, but I also had a lot of problems. All my friends were drug addicts and rock 'n' rollers. It was hard for me to give them up. Also, there were areas of unforgiveness in my life. The Lord had miraculously delivered me from drugs and alcohol, but deep seated bitterness was a hard thing for me to work through.
At the same time, there was a tremendous spiritual war for my will. I had a great difficulty surrendering a lot of things, and money was a big one. I figured the only way I could make money was in secular rock music. But while making a rock album after coming to the Lord, my best friend Felix Papilardi, was murdered. 'Two days before, I had witnessed to him and he had rejected Christ. Now he was dead. Soon after, my drummer Gary Driscoll was murdered.'
I tried investing in 'Christian investments' and was severely ripped off twice. The Lord showed me that I had put my faith and trust in other men instead of Him. But once again I panicked, and headed back to making a living in the world of secular rock music.
So guess who called me first? Black Sabbath. I accepted the offer and was the group's lead vocalist from January to May of 1985, all the while thinking I could be a 'light in the darkness'. It didn't work.
Finally, I came to the point where I said, 'Okay, Ive been in the biggest rock groups in the world, but I can't get blessed in these groups anymore because I'm not of the same spirit.' At that point I wasn't getting blessed in Christianity either because I hadn't gone completely into it. I was like a donkey standing between two bales of hay starving to death because he wouldn't make the choice. So I said to myself, 'Either you go all the way into the world and forget Jesus, or go all the way with Jesus.' It took about 1/10th of a second to decide; I could not live one minute without my Saviour.
The incredible power of Christ's forgiveness and compassion has led me into a whole new ministry to those who have also suffered abuse or have been bound by bitterness, violence, or drugs.
Jeff Fenholt may be contacted at
P.O. Box 5062
Balboa Island, CA
Pray a prayer similar to this and mean it in your heart, and you will be saved:
Dear Jesus, forgive me for my sin and rebellion against you. I ask You to come into my heart now and make me Your child. I promise to trust You with my life. I turn my back on the devil and receive You as my Lord. God is my Father and Heaven is my home. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new. II Corinthians 5:17