In our now time-honoured Sunday tradition, we turn to music. This week in my new series Hymns from the Radio Dial, we get political with a call for social justice from Psalm 137. It is most likely that we all remember Rivers of Babylon as a late-70s song by German disco group Boney M. In fact, the song was written and recorded in 1972 by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of The Melodians (1965-73), a Jamaican group in Kingston, the birthplace of reggae.
Following on their first two albums dealing with adolescence (Boy) and spirituality (October), U2′s third studio album turned political in 1983 with War. Besides the album title, songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” issue their comment on the world at the time, when Bono said, “War seemed to be the motif for 1982. Everywhere you looked, from the Falklands to the Middle East and South Africa, there was war. By calling the album War we’re giving people a slap in the face and at the same time getting away from the cozy image a lot of people have of U2.”
When Roger Hodgson departed Supertramp in 1983, someone commented that the remaining group was reduced to being just “Tramp”. It was the end of an era for the band after releasing a number of very successful albums. Among them was the classic 1979 release, Breakfast in America. The album included four hit singles (“The Logical Song”, “Goodbye Stranger”, “Take the Long Way Home” and the title cut, “Breakfast in America”).
I have in my record collection (yes, kids, it’s made of vinyl, and it plays on a turntable without any forward-backward interference so as to produce music instead of senseless garbled noises, thank you very much) a 1974 collector’s album by Larry Norman called Streams of White Light into Darkened Corners. I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to find out just what I might possibly replace my long-running Sunday hymn series with, and this is it. And I’m really looking forward to digging into it… after this week’s series introduction. Oddly enough, I had the idea for the series a couple of months back, and sat down to list some 50+ songs that fit the bill, and titled my list “Hymns from the Byways.” Then a few weeks later, I was thumbing through my record collection to find something nostalgic and landed on this forgotten LP. The idea is this — convinced that secular:sacred is most likely a false dichotomy, I’m compiling a list of songs which are (a) “Christian”-oriented but scored on the pop charts or (b) spiritual songs recorded by “secular” artists. I’m looking at that crossover space where we find spiritual truth on the radio. “Hymns from the Radio”? Not sure yet what to call the series, but don’t touch that dial.
He gave up all He had
everything at his command
He gave up all He had
– from a song by Mike Koop
Do you ever wonder if Jesus looks down on this mess and asks himself if he really stepped out of Heaven and went through all that trouble down here… for this? Or does he look down fondly and say that this is what he went to all the trouble for?
Oh, I know, we all know the answer… the question is thus somewhat rhetorical. But still, how does it strike you?
I received a CD a while back as part of the stream of books I get from time to time for review. I confess to not being the best music reviewer, though for some reason I happen to know a lot of musicians — and musicians with genuine talent. I listened to the CD a couple of times through and then foisted it upon a couple of musician-friends (let’s call them Mike and Karla), both of whom have reviewed books here before. My take on it was that some of the songs had some good lyrics, though not all of them really “grabbed” me. It reminded me a little of some of the Worship Circle stuff. Anyway, another review follows… with a video of Brian McLaren discussing the project tossed in for good measure.
Okay, not yet… but I have a sure-fire plan. So… anybody know how I can convince Alison Krauss to do an album with me?
I’ve been plugging away at everything and nothing lately, but it’s time for a midsummer update of a few of the things that have been in the miscellany queue recently. I mentioned on Saturday that I had been blogging “in absentia,” which means that the blog was being updated automatically with prescheduled posts. At the time we were visiting with friends at their lakeside retreat (more of a camp or “complex” than a cottage, the sort of place which has “grounds” instead of a yard or lot). It was wonderful and restful, as usual, and I even found a few hours to inject into a fledgling novel manuscript that I haven’t touched for almost a year. The image of the duck and ducklings is a reward for being awake at 5:00AM when I snapped it and a few other pics before reading for a while, grabbing a cup of coffee, and eventually going back to bed. The pace of leisure.
Music is a powerful force, and a good clean source of fun. Yesterday afternoon I was listening to a couple of friends doing a jam-rehearsal while I recommended certain selections the could add to their repertoire for violin+guitar & one voice. One of the guys is somewhat (in)famous for rewriting song lyrics, and at my prompting the added his classic “With or Without Shoes” to their playlist, done to the tune of a certain well-known U2 song. This is also the guy fond of stand-up guitar comedy (or whatever one might call it) and has done a whole routine around an infomercial for the collection, “Dan Fogelberg sings every song ever written.” It’s a little scary when he gets going — but not quite so scary as what he produced spontaneously yesterday afternoon when I suggested a tribute to aging Boomers… AC/DC as elevator music.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks, off and on, singing with Jenny Moore-Koslowsky. Not in person, of course — Jenny is in London, studying with her husband Conrad. And when I say “singing with,” of course I mean quietly, along with a CD safely playing at a louder volume. In the interest of not creating an auditory nuisance under some local bylaw, I don’t really do so much actual singing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up, as it helps to know a little something about this project.
I’ve had a curious thought about the worship movement. Yes, “worship movement.” It seems to me that out of the Vineyard movement and similar neo-charismatic movements have come something that could be called a “worship movement,” that trend that is infiltrating a wide array of church traditions these days. You can tell by the ignoring or absence of hymnals in favour of the projection of lyrics on a screen. The selection of hymns is drastically reduced as well, giving way to choruses from the Vineyard, Hillsong, Integrity/Hosanna, Matt Redman, Third Day, and a cross section of people with soul patches. Not to mention that wherever church organs remain, they’re getting dusty. Not only have guitars and drums invaded, there are now bongos, conga drums, and djembes involved.
Whodathunkit? The 2008 Pulitzer Prize awards have been announced, and for the first time ever, rock and roll gets a mention. I think they made a good choice for this ‘first’ — Bob Dylan was awarded a special citation “for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” He’s now The Pulitzer-Prize-Winning Bob Dylan, and in my mind, it’s well-deserved. Why didn’t anyone thunkofit sooner?